The Noun Project: Using Iconic Design Tools for Social Change The Noun Project: Using Iconic Design Tools for Social Change
- Most Read
Can Ambitious Crowdfunding Help Bail Out Greece?by Tasbeeh Herwees
Understand Consent With the Help of Stick Figures and a Cup of Teaby Craig Carilli
One Couple Shares Their Experience as Transgender Soldiersby Katie Ratcliffe
Understanding the Myths and Realities of the “Greener” American Homeby Kate Gammon, Brian Hurst Presented by Progressive
Some Teens Kept Sexually Harassing This Young Journalist. So She Humiliated the Hell Out of Them.by Adam Albright-Hanna
He Saved 669 Kids From Nazi Death Camps. He Has No Idea They’re About to Thank Him.by Craig Carilli
Denmark’s New Eco-Friendly School is a Marvel of Solar Scienceby Laura Feinstein
Meet the Mad Scientist Cooking up Human Hamburgers to Push the Boundaries of Future Foodsby Laura Feinstein
An HIV-Positive Man Asks Strangers to Touch Him. Their Responses Bring Him to Tears.by Craig Carilli
The Noun Project: Using Iconic Design Tools for Social Change
In each village we visited in Rajasthan, I asked people to experiment with the tiles in three ways. First, I asked people to identify what the icons referred to, and then I asked people to explain a story using the tiles. Finally, I asked them to draw some tiles of their own. The intention was to experiment with ways of discovering symbolic literacy, as well as to use those findings to inform any instructions or guides we would have to make relevant to our water project.
The next time around was much more topical. Literacy Bridge, an organization empowering children and adults with tools for knowledge sharing and literacy learning, contacted us to help them solve an issue with their Talking Book. The Talking Book is an audio computer that shares locally-relevant knowledge and improves literacy in areas with limited access to literature.
Literacy Bridge interacts with communities in Northern Ghana that have no word for ‘arrow’ in their lexicon. The organization needed to be able to instruct the user to press a button relative to a spoken instruction. We experimented with a bunch of different icons and shapes, some of them from The Noun Project site, some of them created by us, and a few lifted from other sources. Thanks to the timezone difference between California and Ghana, the feedback loop was quick. While we slept, Literacy Bridge would report back the responses they got from the field. Then we would adapt the icons according to their suggestions, and the next day they would be tested again.
We worked our way through icons that had issues involving the spoken instructions of the device, icons that implied tasks that were too specific (‘fish’ = food), that had too much potential religious connotation (‘plus’ = cross), or even that had too much local political association (‘umbrella’ and ‘rooster’ are local Ghanaian political party symbols). We are continuing to help Literacy Bridge achieve an appropriate interface through their piloting stage, as they test Talking Books in the thousands.
We plan to continue developing new research games and other design resources, and to continue using The Noun Project to help us when we need the right icon. It’s an excellent resource, even if I still can't find an icon for ‘design’ on the site (nor an icon for ‘icon’)—but I’m hitting my sketchpad to work on it. I’m also going to get in touch with The Noun Project and suggest an iconathon themed around rural life (on all continents). Oh, and maybe I can put in a festive wish for a ‘silhouette bank’ as well?
Thanks, Noun Project. Keep up the good work, and we will see you at the next Iconathon.