Research & Evaluation

Scale Ladders 2007 Design Based Research Study

Report date: September, 2007



Creative Commons license image
Creative Commons
Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

General Description: 

A series of interview studies was conducted to determine how museum visitors interpret scale ladders that focus on the nanoscale. These studies look at different versions of an example scale ladder in order to: a.) Iteratively develop a scale ladder that may be used by other informal science institutions. b.) Formulate guidelines to inform the design and use of other scale ladders.

Major Findings: 

• Most visitors thought the scale ladder showed the (relative) size of objects.
• Less than half of the visitors looked closely at or thought deeply about the nanoscale portion of the scale ladder poster.
• Removing the ruler from the scale ladder did not have a measurable effect on visitors’ interpretation of its main message or their definition of nano.
• When reading a scale diagram to determine the size of a nano-sized object, visitors looked more at the objects that bracket the nanoscale category than at other objects on the ladder.
• Most visitors found the scale ladder helpful in understanding an exhibit about nanostructures, but some visitors felt that the scale ladder was confusing and / or superfluous to the exhibit.
• Visitors were more likely to see the scale ladder’s relevance when it included items specifically mentioned in the exhibit.
• A more diverse (and possibly more familiar) set of objects did not lead to a better understanding of the nanoscale.

Type of product(s) studied: 

  • Media

Method(s) of data collection: 

  • interviews


Joyce Ma

Associated product(s):