A pictogram (from the Latin pictum 'painted', 'picture' and Greek γράφειν gráphein 'write') is a single symbol or icon that conveys information through a simplified graphic representation . A pictogram can consist of an iconic representation of objects, scenes, abstract symbols, numbers or text elements. A pictogram is typically integrated into a pictogram system.
Archaic forerunner of writing and new visual form of communication in modern times
Pictograms are also called the images of old picture writings (pictography). They are the forerunners of various scripts , such as cuneiform , and have later developed into logograms , such as the characters of the Chinese language (and the Kanji characters of the Japanese language borrowed from them ) or the hieroglyphic script , which is a pictorial script and the oldest written one Form of ancient Egyptian language is. In many of the simpler characters, the figurative origin can be easily recognized.
Meanwhile, the term pictogram is used for the graphic information signs or warning notices at airports and in other public buildings, in traffic, and for the iconic graphic images in instructions for use or on technical devices.
Otto Neurath (1882–1945), an Austrian social philosopher and economist , can certainly be described as the father of this new visual form of communication . Together with the graphic artist Gerd Arntz, he developed Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education) in 1936 , a visualization system with which complex relationships are to be shown in a simple manner using pictograms in an internationally understandable manner.
Otl Aicher , the design representative for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, further reduced these pictograms, which were still very figurative up to then. He also developed a complex routing system for Munich Airport that is internationally understandable. In cooperation with the ERCO company , countless pictograms were created to illustrate everyday life.
In the age of globalization and internationalization, pictograms are used in a standardized form to convey information independently of the language or as quickly as possible (as traffic signs ) or to warn of dangers as hazard symbols.
Common symbols for sunshine (sun with halo), clear night (crescent moon and stars; inverted), cloudiness (cloud), type and intensity of precipitation (rain: oblique lines, drops; snow: ramified crystal) are used to represent weather conditions - observed or predicted , Point cluster), thunderstorm (lightning), fog (horizontal lines), frost temperature (snow crystal + liquid thermometer). These symbols are entered individually in tables, but usually positioned as a group on maps, possibly expanded to include temperature information and additional text (e.g. storm). These pictograms are subject to certain modifications by design in order to be quickly recognizable, but also to correspond to the appearance of a media company. In TV broadcasts, the falling of rain or snow, the twinkling of the stars and the billowing of the fog are sometimes shown in motion.
On the other hand, on the originally manual entries of observations in weather maps of the meteorologists, internationally common symbols that allow more precise information for wind direction, speed, degree of cloudiness, and precipitation are much more stable over time.
The International Organization for Standardization ( ISO ) has created a collection of pictograms ( ISO 7001 ) and basic design instructions as well as methods for testing the quality of pictograms (ISO 9186), which are intended to reduce the use of non-standardized and non-interculturally understandable pictograms.
With the commissioning of the Vienna Central Station, the ÖBB developed new pictograms that differ slightly from those recommended by the International Union of Railways (UIC). As before in white on blue and with rounded corners. The Vienna subway as part of the Wien Linien, on the other hand, draws pictograms in black and white in a square frame.
Pictograms are often used to pass on information that is supposed to be language, writing and culture neutral. An example from Brazil shows that this does not always work: The drug thalidomide (former trade name Contergan) is used there against leprosy. To warn of the teratogenic effects, a pictogram is printed on the packaging (a pregnant woman with a crossed-out belly), which is apparently repeatedly misinterpreted as a label for a contraceptive or abortion agent. As a result, newborns are repeatedly born with the characteristic malformations.
- Rayan Abdullah, Roger Hübner : Pictograms and icons, compulsory or freestyle? Verlag Hermann Schmidt , Mainz 2005, ISBN 3-87439-649-5 (with an experiment on visual language by Jochen Gros ).
- Marion Ackermann (Ed.): Pictograms - The loneliness of signs. Deutscher Kunstverlag , Munich, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-422-06674-8 .
- Andreas Bauer: Pictograms. An intercultural imagery? Problems in international practice and possible solutions. BoD, Norderstedt 2005, ISBN 3-8334-3853-3 .
- Alexander Christian: Pictograms. Trends in the design and use of graphic symbols. Herbert von Halem Verlag, Cologne 2017, ISBN 978-3-86962-243-9 .
- Alexander Christian: Pictograms. Critical contribution to a definition. Shaker, Aachen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8322-8021-5 .
- Robert Klanten (Ed.): Lingua grafica. Great reference work of imagery. Die Gestalten Verlag , Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-931126-53-6
- Alexander Kranz, Ricarda Stiller: News Sites, Design and Journalism. Springer, Berlin et al. 2003, ISBN 3-540-44082-8 .
- Martin Krampen : The world of signs: communication with pictograms. Av Edition, Ludwigsburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89986-086-3 .
- Daniela Stöppel: Visual sign systems of the avant-garde 1910 to 1950. Traffic signs, color guidance systems, pictograms. Silke Schreiber Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-88960-123-0 .
- The 50 symbols developed by AIGA that are used in airports
- Freely usable pictograms of the NounProject