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.
Three levels of Widgit wordlists have been created:
- Level 1 is aimed at young people and people who will be focusing on a
communication vocabulary. The number of alternatives for any concept will
be kept to a minimum, and complex items and grammatical markers will not
- Level 2 will have a larger vocabulary, including more grammatical features,
but still with a minimum number of alternatives for any single concept.
- Level 3 will have all items from the vocabulary. An alternative without
the explicit sex-education vocabulary will also be available.
An option in the program will allow the plural qualifiers to be turned
off, giving access to the vocabulary, linked to the single image, at
any of the levels.
It is also possible to 'hide' symbols so that the F12 key has to be
pressed to reveal it. This can be useful with abstract items and 'the'
or 'a'. Level 2 vocabulary will have more of these so that words can
be introduced as appropriate.
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.
Writing with Symbols 2000 is currently being 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.
Developing your own symbols in the Widgit style
These guidelines have been written to help explain the new ideas behind
the symbols and to help with the construction of any new symbols in
the future. The conventions described should allow you to create your
own symbols using a drawing package, either starting from scratch or
using elements from the drawings already published. An additional pack
will be available with greater detail on the conventions and elements
will be available, accompanied by graphic images for these elements.
If you do design new symbols using these guidelines or using the existing
symbols, then we ask that you share your ideas so that they can be added
into future upgrades. Access to large vocabularies will be increasingly
important as symbol users begin to talk about wider topics and to participate
more in society.
Tina Detheridge, Helen Whittle and Cate Detheridge, July 2002
All symbols in this document are (c) Widgit Software Ltd 2002.