Category: Pictograms



These graphics feel like breath of fresh air, coming straight from Paris. In terms of engagement, they hit all the right notes. See a lot more on Guillaume’s website:

Below, some retro tech animations.

Icons for La Poste, the French postal service.

For Welcome to the Jungle, a French recruitment company.

Problems parking the camper van.

Another animation for Welcome to the Jungle.

Cityscapes of New York and Philadelphia for NRG Energy, a U.S. power company.

Animated icons for Le Tank, a coworking space in Paris.

Plan view


Drone photography of New York landmarks by Humza Deas:

Above, the Statue of Liberty. Below, the Unisphere. Featured in a post here:

Columbus Circle.

Stuyvesant Town.

The Chrysler Building.

Carpets made using Google Earth imagery by David Hanauer:

Cruise ships by Jeffrey Milstein:

A previous post about Bernhard Lang’s overhead photographs:

The pictograms are falling


It’s snowing here, but I only see pictograms. Natural geometry with beautiful irregularity. The six-fold symmetry is due to the hexagonal structure of the molecules in ice crystals. Photographed by Alexey Kljatov. See his technique, and more examples, here:

Snow crystal is the precise term for what we call a snowflake, which is a more general term that also describes clumps of snow crystals.

A classification of snowflakes by Israel Perkins Warren (c.1863).

Symbol art


In my office, I have a beautiful soccer ball, designed by Ryan McGinness. And no one is kicking this “Bucky Ball” down the VisCom corridor.
I will never even take it out of the box. Ryan uses pictograms creatively in his artworks and installations:

Sign Trees (2015), a set of reflective signs shown at the Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton, New York.

Wayfinding (2017), an art installation at a Detroit skate park.

Hand-crafted symbols have a lot of appeal, as you can see in the examples below.

Balloons Masayoshi Matsumoto’s animals.

Insects by Raku Inoue.

These hatchets are hand-painted by Peter Buchanan-Smith.

Breakfasts Instagram users submitted their favorites, and Reina Saur made 100 of them out of paper. One each day, until the project was completed. A selection of them are shown below.

The Accessible Icon Project


Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney started altering the icon that marks wheelchair-accessible parking spots in 2009. They put stickers on signs around Boston to make the standard symbol look more active. The International Symbol of Access was designed in the 1968 by Susanne Koefoed, in a competition organized by the United Nations. It’s promoted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The Accessible Icon Project grew from these initial attempts to promote change. A team of interested people worked with a designer, Tim Ferguson Sauder, to finalize a new icon. The cutouts in the wheel make it easy to stencil and emphasize movement. The other improvements speak for themselves. When the design was finalized, it was put into the public domain.

Events around Boston, in cooperation with Triangle Inc’s community service organization, gave the new icon more visibility. And now it’s really taking off.

It’s on my phone.

MoMA has added it to their permanent collection.There’s a modified version on wheelchair-accessible New York taxis.

This pictogram is one part of a movement to encourage a more positive perception of people with disabilities.
Truly, it represents “Infographics for the People.”



The biohazard symbol was designed in 1966, by Charles Baldwin, an engineer at the Dow Chemical Company.

Below, a set of hazard warning pictograms.

GHS The Globally Harmonized System is a universal set of symbols from the United Nations.

Nuclear waste
How do we warn people of buried toxic waste without words? And stop them from digging it up. We don’t know if mankind, thousands of years in the future, will understand any radiation hazard symbols, or a written warning (in any current language). This clever visual solution, by Nick Shelton, was for a School of Visual Arts infographics project.

A detail.

Mosquito sign
 Maleria is a huge problem in some countries.

Flight ban
The items that you should not take to the airport. (From an American Airlines check-in page.)

Designed at the University of California in 1946. It symbolizes activity radiating out from an atom.

We know to proceed with caution if we see this.

Symbol world


Emoji weather map One way to get the forecast. And it’s global.,39.000,-95.000,4
Below: What’s going on here?

Legoland Staying on the toilet theme, some signs with Lego humor.

Dog warning Says it quite clearly.

Don’t do it A lot of things are banned at this California beach.

Keep off the street Ouch!

Your friendly doctor Yes, it’s clever, but it scares me.

Aliens An unusual style in this Japanese pedestrian sign.

Breakfast surprise A special skillet is all you need.

On the road


Almost everywhere we look there are (supposedly helpful) signs, but they often send an unclear message. This area of visual communication has plenty of room for improvement. In the example below, the sign is clearly in Penns Grove.

Some stop confusion.

Very precise speed restriction.

A bike collision could be imminent.

The British are very good at keeping secrets.

Almost Apple‘s Command symbol.

Sometimes there’s a barrage of information…

…or just too many arrows.

Two-way, indeed.

Not an encouraging sign, if you’re prone to car sickness.

I saw this one a lot when I lived in Queens.

The Guardian had a road sign quiz, and these were some of the options.
Below: Turn left for the 1980s. (The real meaning is Direction to nearest emergency phone.)

You’ve reached Egypt. (Detour.)

Bus mounting ramp ahead. (Buses, bikes and taxis only.)

Please use 3D glasses. (No overtaking.)

Fired caterpillars ahead. (Electrical overhead cable ahead.)

By the numbers A small town in California.

And finally… This sign is (helpfully) in both English and Welsh. Unfortunately, the Welsh section says, “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

Icon invasion


Today is World Emoji Day. Why? Because that’s the date shown on Apple’s iCal emoji. The day (in 2002) that the calendar application was announced. Here’s the calendar emojis from Apple, Google and Twitter, which uses the date that it was founded.

Since they first appeared on Japanese phones in the late 1990s, emojis have risen to clearly become (numerically-speaking) number one in the world of visual communication. Billions are used every day. “Emoji” means “pictogram” in Japanese. Surprisingly, the connection to the English words “emotion”and “emoticon” is coincidental. There are 1,144 separate emoji components in Unicode 10, and many other emojis are composed by putting two or more together.

If you want to improve your emoji knowledge, Emojipedia is the place:

It’s all happening in the world of cute little icons. There’s an emoji movie coming out next week.

(The Emoji Movie © Sony Pictures Entertainment)

The most popular emoji is “Tears of Joy.” Below are the Apple and Samsung versions.

We can already search with emojis, and now the big brands are ramping up their emoji-friendliness. These are for Coca-Cola and IKEA.

As the travel website, KAYAK stated: “Spelling things is so 2015.” The site can already be searched using these ten emojis to represent cities, and they’ve just had a competition to choose 15 more.

Truth Facts give their take on the way that things are going.

Nigel Holmes wrote an excellent post about emojis (and other developments in visual language) earlier this year:

Emergency symbols


Guemil is a pictogram initiative, developed by Rodrigo Ramírez, that is oriented towards risk and emergency situations. The aim is to create a set of icons that can be understood all over the world in a crisis context. Website:

The pictograms are packed into an open source font, which along with other information, can be downloaded directly from the site, or from GitHub:

International user testing is a very important part of the development, in order to measure performance with regard to meaning and cultural differences, You can evaluate the pictograms, and contribute to the process here::

A pdf about Guemil:

This project is part of the Design Network for Emergency Management (, and the tests are a collaboration with the International Institute for Information Design. Guemil was shortlisted in the 2017 IIID Awards, in the Emergency category (

The name: In the Mapuche* language, guemil is a symbol (originally “ngümin” which means “design” or “borders”) that represents science and knowledge, as well as manufacturing and the art of transformation. It is also a symbol of the writing system.
* Indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and south-western Argentina.

Below, a guemil pattern.

Rodrigo Ramírez is a faculty member in the School of Design at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and Visiting Professor in the School of Design, at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is also a partner in Frescotype, a digital type studio based in Santiago.