Symbol Usage in Health Care

Special Mention Award

Universally recognized graphic symbols, such as those used to delineate parking spaces and other facilities for individuals who are physically handicapped, can be an effective tool for communicating important information to individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The aim of this project was to design a set of graphic symbols that would be easily understood and, ultimately could be universally recognized for use in health care environments to aid LEP visitors.


JRC Design presented guidelines and recommendations to design, test, and implement a standard set of symbols for use in health care settings. The result, a full set of 28 symbols and their referents, are part of a complete Technical Paper detailing the testing methods, test scores, and recommendations for future symbol design. The symbols are in the public domain, thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


The goal is that additional needed symbols continue to be tested through the proven methodologies and accepted into the standards for use, not only in the United States, but throughout the world as universal public information symbols in the health care environment.

Jury Comments: 

"This set of universal graphic symbols allows patients (and their families) with limited English proficiency and limited reading skills to safely navigate a healthcare facility and improve the care they receive. The research and development is to be commended."

Design Firm: 

JRC Design


Hablamos Juntos, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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Design Team: 

Jamie R. Cowgill (Principal in Charge), JRC Design; Jim Bolek, JRC Design; Jack Biesek, Biesek Design; Gladys Brenner, AB Design; Meg Faye, FayeWorks Design LLC; Kate Keating, Kate Keating Associates, Inc.; Wendy T. Olmstead, Ivy Tech Community College


Philip Garvey, Pennsylvania State University; Craig Berger, SEGD



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