Graphic Design of Pictograms Focusing on the Comprehension of People with Intellectual Disabilities – The Next Step in Standardization

Pictogram Design and Evaluation methods


  • Mao Kudo


pictogram, intellectual disabilities, testing, evaluation methods


People with Intellectual disabilities understand Pictograms that require learning has been reported to be difficult. They exhibit difficulties under-standing, including reading and writing, textual information, and often use images in the form of Pictograms to circumvent this difficulty.Against the backdrop of research by AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication), TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children), and others, Pictograms have been used as tools for communication from school age onward. Thus, Pictograms displayed in public spaces are public support tools that enable people with intellectual disabilities to understand information.

However, in Japan, when some Pictograms were revised or added in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2017, and paired comparison survey was carried out by the Japanese JIS standard Pictograms committee to determine whether JIS or ISO Pictograms were easier to understand. Some people with disabilities were included in the study, but only 20 out of 121 responded (16.5%), and the data was decided to be used only as a reference.

From the results of the author's previous surveys of people with Intellectual Disabilities, pictograms they understand are also well understood by people without disabilities.

In this study, 19 adults with intellectual disabilities and Pictograms of 16items from JIS for guidance were subjected to a com-prehension survey where they recalled intended actions. As a result, graphic elements that increase comprehension were identified in each Pictogram. The study also suggested an association between comprehensible graphic elements and IQ.

Specifically, five graphic elements influence the comprehension of Pictograms: 1. person symbolizing location, 2. real orien-tation, 3. motion line (: effect line representing movement, emphasis, sound, etc.) 4. location element, and 5. arrow: the axis length affects the degree of comprehension. It was suggested that 1. lower IQ, 2. real orientation, and 3. motion line had more influence on the ease of understanding.

Author Biography

Mao Kudo

Mao Kudo is interested in the graphic design of Pictograms that are easily understood by people with Intellectual Disabilities and other internal disabilities.

In 2014 she obtained a Ph.D. in design researching the Universal Design of Pictograms. She holds teaching licenses and has a background in educational practice in Special Needs schools.Currently, she works as an assistant professor of Media Design at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan.





Journal Article