This week was much about narrowing down my topic and looking for available implements. During last week's group meeting, I proposed that my focus will lean towards pictogram for following reasons:

  1. Alphabets vary enormously in characteristics such as their typography and structure. I've done a project about my bilingualism, and the biggest challenge for expanding the project was my ignorance about other types of alphabets. Even a single alphabet has its own complicated system (often deeply connected to its culture), and I would like approach my thesis in the point of visual perception, rather than focusing on a specific alphabet or a culture.
  2. Similar from the first reason, I would like to pick a language that is more universal and primitive.


"A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an icon, is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to a considerable extent pictorial in appearance."

Google Material Design Icons
Google Material Design Icons

Doodles, Pictograms, and Letters

Language is the system of signs. It is “a storehouse filled by the members of a given community through their active use of speaking, a grammatical system that has a potential existence in each brain, or, more specifically, in the brains of a group of individuals" – Ferdinand de Saussure 13-14 in Vidra-Mitra, 2017

Cave paintings in Magura Cave, Bulgaria. Photo by
Magura Cave, Bulgaria. Photo by

A pictogram is somewhere between a primitive drawing and a letter; not only in their form, but also in their historical order. It's more systematic than a doodle, yet requires less abstraction and training than a letter. It's is a doodle, yet a "consistent doodle".

ISO 7001 (public information symbols)

"ISO 7001 ('public information symbols') is a standard published by the International Organization for Standardization that defines a set of pictograms and symbols for public information."

Japanese green exit sign with Running Man moving to the left through a doorway

For example, the international exit sign, "Running Man", was introduced into the 1987 standard as a consistent and international approach to move away from using words in the native language, after the Sennichi Department Store Building fire.

Consistency and System

Ferdinand de Saussure claims language is relational system of signs. One of the problems about a pictogram is that it's much diverse in style and interpretation of what it signifies.

two cat icons from the noun project

These two icons are both from searching "cat" in the Noun Project. The Noun Project is the biggest platform that shares such pictograms, created and uploaded by graphic designers around the world.

A pictogram can be a "doodle" than a "language", by lack of consistency.. Although applying regulation with a single standard as ISO 7001 is the simplest answer, it's not always an available option -- especially regarding that a pictogram is ultimately another form of creative expression. Also, they're rather recommended to be different in their level of details, scale or weight, depending on their purposes and environments. However, at least inside one system (i.e. a mobile application), they have to align together; else they become mere doodles.

When people open a website or enter into a building, they're entering into a new system. Something that can improve and build the legibility of pictograms is the consistency within a system, instead of the consistency over all the systems (like ISO 7001). It's much more achievable and friendly approach for keeping pictograms as a language, without destroying their diversity. It will also give a nice observation of how people visually perceive things and interpret them.


  • The Noun Project API will be the source of my thesis
  • Items should be collected as /icons/{term} than /icons/{collection} (already formed collection)
  • maximum number limit of call is 50? (reach out to the Noun Project)
  • let's not use creative commons, but public works only
  • Possibilities of application: better way of sorting icons compared to tag-base categorization, draw and search icon, change icons altogether in similar style