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What is a Pictogram?

Un pictograma es un elemento visual utilizado en la comunicación.

A pictogram is a graphic representation that simplifies or synthesizes an idea or concept through an image or drawing. These symbols have been used throughout history in various cultures and contexts. A pictogram can represent an object, an action, an idea, among others, and is usually easily recognizable and understandable, even without the need for text.

Pictograms, due to their simplicity and ability to convey messages easily, are used in different contexts:

  • Ancient history: Ancient civilizations used pictograms as part of their writing systems. For example, Sumerian cuneiform writing began as a pictographic system before evolving into a more abstract form.
  • Signage: Pictograms are used on traffic signs, airports, train stations, and other public places to convey information quickly and clearly to people of different languages and cultures.
  • Instructions: Some products include pictographic instructions to ensure that users can understand how to use or assemble the product regardless of the language they speak.
  • Chemical labeling: The Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) uses pictograms to indicate the hazards associated with certain chemicals.
  • Communication and education: In some educational or health contexts, pictograms are used to communicate information to people with reading difficulties or for those who speak different languages.

Designing an effective pictogram requires a clear approach and a thorough understanding of what it is intended to communicate. We will describe some of the keys to designing an effective pictogram that conveys your message clearly:

  • Simplicity: A good pictogram should be simple and contain no unnecessary details. Its purpose is to quickly communicate an idea or concept.
  • Recognizability: The design should be easily recognizable and understandable to the target audience. The image or symbol chosen should have a direct connection to the concept or idea it represents.
  • Consistency: If you are designing a series of pictograms, it is essential that they all have a consistent style and format. This helps create a visual system that people can easily identify and follow.
  • Avoid ambiguity: It is essential that a pictogram cannot be misinterpreted or cause confusion. Your message must be direct and clear.
  • Size and scalability: Make sure the pictogram is legible and recognizable in both large and small sizes, especially if it is to be used in different media or platforms.
  • Appropriate use of color: Although a pictogram should be understandable in black and white, the use of color can enhance its visibility and message delivery, especially if the color has a specific cultural or functional meaning.
  • Testing with the target audience: Before finalizing a pictogram, it is useful to get feedback from the target audience. This can help you identify possible interpretation problems or areas for improvement.
  • Universality: If possible, make your pictogram understandable to a broad audience, transcending cultural and linguistic barriers.
  • Context: Consider where and how the pictogram will be used. For example, a pictogram used in an airport may need to be more universal than one used in a more localized context.
  • Historical and cultural inspiration: Study ancient pictograms and symbols from different cultures. These can offer insights on how to effectively represent complex ideas in a simplified way.

If you want to learn about other key concepts in graphic design, take a look at our dictionary, in which you can enter a large number of important terms.


With a degree in Psychology and a passion for flamenco guitar and board games, my professional journey has deeply explored the intricate link between human behavior and marketing. Over the years, I've honed my ability to analyze and interpret market trends and consumer responses. At The Color Blog, I blend my psychological insights with my love for writing, providing unique perspectives on marketing, history, and the human interactions that shape our digital age.View Author posts

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