Pictograms are problematic because they are often culturally based. Some
pictograms we have learned, but the original idea behind the pictograms in
automobiles, VCRs, etc. was that a manufacturer could save money by not
labeling with a language but instead use a picture that is 'supposed' to
have universal meaning across all locales. It doesn't work. You can
usually figure out the meaning of some or even most of the symbols used,
but not all. The easiest ones to figure out are the ones you've seen many
times in previous similar situations. Meaning, you've learned a new
'alphabet'. The problem is that this alphabet has to keep growing to cover
new functions in automobiles, electronics and appliances. It's beginning
to sound like the CJK problem. Each time a new function is added, somebody
has to come up with a new icon. A classic example of this problem occurred
to me a few months ago when my 8 y/o son tried to set the clock on some
electronic device and the icon looked like an analog clock, sort of. It
was a circle with dots around the border and a couple of lines. I
immediately recognized it because I grew up with analog clocks, but my son
didn't make the connection until I explained it to him. When I explained
it, he said, "That's stupid, clocks don't look like that!" We speak the
same language, live together, and the only difference is my age and past
experience yet he has to 'learn' a new symbol whereas I 'recognized' the
The use of pictograms has their place, but it does require the user to
learn a new set of symbols with which to represent ideas. Standardization
of pictograms is important, but I'm not convinced that Unicode is the place
for that standard.
<firstname.lastname@example.org To: "Unicode List" <email@example.com>
.qc.ca> cc: Unicode List <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com,
06/13/2000 Subject: Re: [unicode] Re: (TC304.2313) AND/OR: antediluvian views
À 10:45 2000-06-12 -0500, David Starner a écrit:
On Mon, Jun 12, 2000 at 05:31:58AM -0800, Alain wrote:
> Personally I am all in favour of pictograms everywhere, as far
> as possible (it avoids many linguistic problems, in particular in
> multilingual environments -- such as airports). It requires,
> a lot of education, as most of them, beyond a certain number of
> ones, are not obvious nor intuitive at all. But it is worth the
> this kind of education.
Why? By that time you've started to make a language - one that can't
be written in Braille, can't be easily displayed on those dot-matrix
light signs, and can't be spoken ("Passports?", "Look out!"). The only
advantage I can see is it being an easier sell than a real language.
[Alain] It is much lighter than having to provide indications, say, in 12
languages (most common example: toilets).
On VCRs it seems a good prcatice (outside the USA, at least).
In Canada, on keyboards, it avoids putting bilingual indications for
functions, and to have to produce different versions showing English first
then French, or French first, then English.
With more than 2 languages, precedence becomes problematic. As an
example of language precedence, an actual case: at the Toronto Airport
Radisson Suite Hotels, my prefered hotel in Toronto (so far! but it could
change...), they recently introduced a multilingual voice mail system. In
Canada, French and English are the two official languages of the country
(and most probably at this hotel the majority of the customers speak
Englsih and French, with a high concentration of French speakers). In
general in Canada you are presented with a choice of language where you
indicate your option by pressing a specific key on the telephone keypad (1
English 2 French -- or the reverse in Québec). At this hotel, French is the
5th choice. It is offensive, I can assure you (I would not have been
offended in Taiwan, of course).
Pictograms avoid such problems. I just gave an indication of where it
can be very useful, and be a peace factor.
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