The Pictogram: a simple, quick and easy way to convey a message



Pictograms (from the Latin, picto – painted + Greek graphe – letter) are graphic elements, icons, that are basically visual messages. These icons are signals used to indicate or represent ideas and/or text. As with the icons you use every day in computer work, the “language” of the pictogram is a simple, clear form that can be clearly and quickly identified and understood.



Origin and uses

The Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics was developed in the 1920s. The method was named ISOTYPEInternational System of Typographic Picture Education. This art of conveying ideas with images was the brainchild of  philosopher, economist and sociologist Otto Neurath.





The system was designed to be an easy means of communication that could be readily perceived and understood by all, regardless of cultural origin, and it effectively erased the language barrier. When you’re waiting at the corner of a busy street for the image of a walking person to flash on the cross-street sign, you’re waiting for a pictogram to appear.


Gerd Arntz was responsible for designing ISOTYPE’S pictorial system – four thousand symbols used to transmit economic and social information to the general public.








ISOTYPE legacy


The arrival of ISOTYPE changed the way designers used signalling systems, the kinds we see on street corners, at airports, in hospitals, at public offices, at  events, and so forth.


For example, sports are represented by pictograms for The Olympic Games. Use this link to see the pictograms that have been designed for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by Dalton Maag Studio.







In fact, the legacy of the ISOTYPE is apparent everywhere today, even having a major influence on what we now call Infographics.


The effects of ISOTYPE can be seen in the design of web sites, apps, interfaces in general, and, of course, in the design of presentations.


We are so inundated by information these days, reducing a topic or theme to utter simplicity has become more than a trend. It has become a necessity! 



How to use pictograms in a presentation


For those of you who think it’s too hard to use pictograms well in presentations, think again!


Add value to a topic: Instead of using bullet points, you can illustrate a topic with an icon, and you can play with the layout and display of the iconic elements in a way that makes your message more efficient and productive.


Making data more attractive:

We tend to think, if you want boring, use data! But this isn’t altogether accurate. Just make sure that the data you use is relevant to your audience. And make sure that you illustrate this basic, key data with pictures. It will help make the data more attractive — and more memorable.


Illustrating the main message: Icons can also be used along with other elements to illustrate a message in a sophisticated way.

Many websites offer free downloads of .png icons for use in presentations, like and

Download the icons, use them, enjoy them! These downloads are a great opportunity to upgrade the visuals of your presentations and convey your messages in a more attractive, fast and effective way.

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