Re: Suggestion for new dingbats/symbols

From: Neil Harris <>
Date: Wed, 29 May 2013 18:59:09 +0100

On 29/05/13 15:56, Asmus Freytag wrote:
> On 5/29/2013 1:39 AM, Andreas Stötzner wrote:
>> Am 29.05.2013 um 01:06 schrieb David Starner:
>>> And what you'll run into is the fact that people don't agree that that
>>> belongs in Unicode.
> What Andreas was suggesting is rigorous study. I think that is a
> commendable suggestion.
> The more interesting question is what aspects should such a study
> encompass, what are to be its starting points and what kind of
> conclusions should be possible after it is completed?
> With better facts in hand it will be much easier to double-check
> whether currently-held assumptions about their relevance for encoding
> hold up or need revisiting. Without facts, this kind of discussion
> just deals in pre-conceived notions, and therefore adds little value.
> A./

ISO have a technical committee, ISO/TC 145, that deals with graphical
symbols, and a standard, ISO 7001, that defines a set of "public
information symbols".

I can find several sets of public information symbols currently in
public use: ISO 7001, DOT, AIGA, and ECOMO.

There appear to be

* 67 [?] U.S. Department of. Transportation public information pictograms
* 50 AIGA symbols:
* 125 ECOMO symbols:

There seems to be quite a lot of overlap between all these sets.

The 125 ECOMO symbols chosen for unification and standardization were
based on a study of around 1200 individual pictograms from 63 different
sources: see

I'm not sure how many ISO 7001 symbols there are, because the document
is not freely publicly available: this press release:
suggests that there were 79 of them in 2007.

Unlike universal pictogram schemes like the Noun Project, these public
information symbols seem to me to be pretty good candidates for encoding
right now. Not only are they capable of being referenced back to
authoritative sources for their design and meaning, they are evidently
in common use in signs. frequently uses in the same context as text, and
in a text-like way. For example, an airport sign might contain the
English word for something, the local word for the same thing, and the
corresponding public information symbol, all side by side, like a
Rosetta stone for pictograms. Moreover, I believe they have clear
character-spirit: in many cases, there are different graphical forms of
the same symbol from different sets that are manifestly the same
semantic entity, in terms of both intended meaning and graphic design

With a bit of unification there are probably less than 200 of these to
encode, fewer than the emoji. Some of these can be identified with
already encoded symbols used elsewhere, and there is also a natural way
to use encoding to avoid the need to encode different semantic variants
of the same symbol, using combining characters as modifiers to signify
that the character following should be put in a warning shape, or
overlaid with a circle and diagonal bar to symbolize prohibition.

Received on Wed May 29 2013 - 13:01:57 CDT

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