Widgit Symbols Development Project
As well as redesigning and redrawing the symbols, other considerations had to be taken into account to ensure that the new symbols would be widely applicable. These issues include the structure of the wordlists and use of the symbols with languages other than English or where the reader does not understand the language of the text with the symbol. Another key issue to be addressed concerns the care necessary in creating effective symbol supported materials.
Combined symbols versus one symbol per word
In the Widgit symbol set there were certain symbols that were used to represent more than 1 word e. g. "How much? " "Again please". In reviewing the set we have aimed to reduce this use of symbols to a minimum. There will therefore be more use of correspondence between each word and symbol, for example 'Geography teacher' will be shown by the two symbols. This may not be the case where the concept is one idea as in "wedding dress" and "life jacket"
However carefully the symbols are designed and however well they are taught, it is essential that the language level of the reader is recognised in sentence construction, and that the way the symbols are displayed can be crucial to the readability. The more concrete the vocabulary the easier it will be to illustrate the concepts graphically. Most punctuation marks are not shown in the graphic line and so the symbol reader will not easily see the ends of sentences, unless sentences are arranged on single lines. Long sentences with many symbols will be very difficult to interpret, whereas short sentences with few symbols may be much easier. Long sentences with few symbols will also be difficult to follow because the spacing between the symbols will not make sense graphically.
Widgit's software are translated into a number of languages. In reviewing the whole of the symbol collection there has been the opportunity to remove some symbols that are specifically suitable for use only in the UK. In doing this it appears that each set of Widgit symbols will need a small separate library that contains those symbols, which are culturally specific. One other area that has made the symbols more suitable for an international audience is the removal of the majority of text from the symbols, which is more appropriate for symbol users anyway.
Tina Detheridge, Helen Whittle and Cate Rae, July 2002
All symbols in this document are © Widgit Software 2002.