Symbols (pictograms) are the universal vocabulary that can transcend words, languages, locations, and cultures. Symbol design is a critical component of graphic design because symbols can often communicate information more concisely than words.
In wayfinding,symbol design is especially important because while words are the primary conveyors of key information, symbols are often needed to augment and sometimes even replace words. Especially in transportation facilities,hospitals,and other complex public spaces,symbols identify key destinations or services quickly, regardless of the language understood by the user.
Several libraries of wayfinding pictograms have been developed to address specific complex environments. The set of 50 pictograms developed by AIGA for the U.S. Department of Transportation has been adopted as a standard symbol family since they were created in 1981. In 1991, SEGD created 108 recreation symbolsto complement the AIGA/USDOT symbols. In 2005, a national team of environmental graphic designers and SEGD, in collaboration with Hablamos Juntos, conducted an extensive research effort focused on symbols for healthcare facilities. The symbols were released in 2005 and new Universal Symbols in Health Carewere added in 2010.
For the full set of SEGD Symbols please visit our Symbolspage.
Symbol design is also integral to placemaking and identity. Olympic symbols are an obvious example, and environmental and experiential graphic designers also devise pictograms unique to other destinations and events.