Universal pictographs

From: Alain LaBont\i (alb@sct.gouv.qc.ca)
Date: Wed Nov 18 1998 - 10:18:38 EST

A 16:35 98-11-17 -0800, Addison Phillips a écrit :
>Pictograms *are* excellent internationalization... when they make
>appropriate sense and are not culturally linked themselves.

[Alain] :
I could not agree more, of course.

The art of making significant universal pictographs is very difficult.

That said, international symbols, at the limit, have to be learned. First,
they should be designed to be intuitively and *universally* understood, but
even so they should be taught in schools, and at least children should be
minded to recognize an iconic grammar worldwide, and be taught with the
principles that govern cultural awareness and openness to others.

To be culture-independent, a little knowledge of a maximum of cultures and
cultural biases (including gestures, religious beliefs, taught behaviours,
etiquette differences whic vary considerably worldwide taught "good taste",
etc.) is very useful. Far to aim at the disappearance of those differences
which enrich the whole universe forever, the use of pictographs could also
be a uniting factor of cultures that should keep their personality as much
as possible, and not disappear in a worlwide tasteless melting-pot.

A few years ago, Michel Cartier (Université du Québec à Montréal) proposed
an iconic grammar at ISO. These works were not continued (due to
personalities in place at the time). Canada also proposed that layers of
symbols could be used in GUIs: an international layer, the intention for
this one being that it be understood worldwide, and, to cater for cultural
bias that have been left in international symbols (almost unavoidable if
made by human beings), a national and maybe a regional layer that would use
a set of more adapted symbols for a local population.

International references for industrial symbols:
 -ISO 7000
 -IEC 417
 -ISO/IEC 9995-7 (keyboard functions in the latter case;
                  these symbols are integrated in ISO 7000,
                  the ISO sacro-sanct bible for pictographs;
                  some are also in IEC standard 417; most
                  are coded as characters, when not already in the
                  1993 edition of the UCS, in project of amendment 22 to
                  ISO/IEC 10646-1, and should hence be in a future
                  version of Unicode)

Alain LaBonté

Project editor, ISO/IEC 9995 (8 parts)
Coeditor of ISO/IEC 9995-7 with
   Bernard Chauvois (inspecteur gén. -- Éducation nationale, France) and
   Fred Bealle (ex-IBMer, editor of the last "green book" of IBM NLTC,
                the "bible" of internationalization for many, now
                working with Edu Circ, Canada)

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