Here is how I think this would be done, but I pretty sure there is a more standard way of doing this:
Artist would start by modelling mesh of an object in the 3d tool but before exporting, he would make sure that all the vertices are centered about the origin and that they are normalized between (0, 1) or (-1, 1).
On the programming side, the necessary scale and translation to place it in the world view would come from some place like a global variable or some config file. That scale and translation value would be suggested by artist and after some tweaking around in the world view, the final value would be decided.
Having said that, I saw an example where a building was modeled with individual cylinders and cones and the trees were modeled the same way using cones and cylinders of unit sizes and then scaling and translation were applied right in the source code. From what I can say, this is not the most efficient way of doing this for variety of reasons, and instead it would be better to model the entire scene in the 3d tool and export the entire scene and not just rudimentry cones and cylinders. My question is, how would you model a complex scene say with houses, cars, people, perhaps lighting ,etc.
Also to challenge my vertex normalization, I have seen plenty of examples of .obj files online where vertices weren't normalized. Are they already scaled right in the 3d edit tool before exporting?
Basically my question is about the standard and effective workflow from creation of the mesh of an object in a 3d tool to its placement in a world view inside a game.
P.S. I don't use game engines, and all I have is a mesh loader library. I don't need skinning. I am mostly interested in joints for animation, some world around me to interact with and some experimentation with camera movement.