Rulers and Dividers: A Technology of Design

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Rulers and dividers enable the discovery and definition of distances. Both tools can be used as instruments with which to determine the dimensions of a nascent artifact. Although they are similar in their capabilities, there is a fundamental difference in the nature of these two tools. A ruler is used to specify distances according to standardized systems of measurement (e.g., inches or millimeters), whereas dividers are used to “step out” proportional relationships, by setting their points to a distance and walking them across a surface.

This article compares these alternative techniques of layout and considers how they ask us to conceive of an emergent design in very different terms. Central to my discussion of rulers and dividers is the idea that tools and techniques can be understood not only in terms of their capacity for achieving goals, but also according to the ways in which they inform processes of design. This approach promotes the role of action and the external world in cognition. To this end, the paper draws inspiration from the theory of extended mind— specifically, the concept that human cognition not only takes place inside the brain (or body) but also is distributed across the tools we use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-19
JournalDesign Issues
Issue number2
Early online date2 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Rulers and Dividers: A Technology of Design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this