RE: Pictograms (was: (TC304.2313) AND/OR: antediluvian views)

Date: Wed Jun 14 2000 - 05:28:01 EDT

Otto Stolz wrote (about using a flash icon for the flashlight function on a
> I found two possible situations in which this would not work:
> - a particular culture may use another metaphor, or a term not based
> on any metaphor, for the notion you are trying to convey,
> - or the metaphor you are trying to convey is more thightly bound to
> another, competing, notion.

There is a third situation. The Italian word for flashlight is the "flash".
Every Italian knows that this English-origin word refers to that thing on
top of cameras -- but only Italians who are fluent in English know that a
"flash" can also be a discharge of electricity coming from a cloud...

In general, an icon can be recognized only by those who had learned it, just
like a word in a spoken language. The connection between the object depicted
and the concept signified is always very loose, if any. Moreover, this
logical connection is often terribly outdated (one must have read the Baron
of Münchhausen to understand the connection between postal services and the
trumpet symbols that represents them).

So, it is OK to me if icons are used on cameras or microwaves oven: if one
of them is not intelligible, I would look it up on the user's manual.

But when I am in an airport, I prefer to have written signs. If they are in
a language that I know, I'm a happy man. In the other case, well, I'd rather
buy and look up a pocked dictionary of the local language -- certainly a
better souvenir than the Visitor's Manual of the Airport Icons!

_ Marco

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