Designing a new language

Tamara Goodings
April 30, 2014

Graphic design

I’m a pretty studious being. As well as working here at Wellmark, I am currently completing my Honours in Communication Design.

For my main research project, I have been assigned the task of communicating with an elderly migrant community in regional Victoria. The aim is to help these people, who speak very little English, in managing the activities of their everyday lives.

As you can imagine, this presents quite a challenge.

How, exactly, do you explain the infamous Myki transport system to people who don’t speak English, when born-and-bred Victorians barely know how to use it?

How do you show them the difference between shampoo and conditioner in a supermarket aisle?

And, most importantly, how do you help them communicate with a doctor or nurse when there is an emergency?

The easiest way, short of an interpreter, is through visual language. I’m not talking Pictionary scribbles. I mean clear, descriptive icons that people can quickly understand. Think the man and woman on the toilet sign. Almost universally, their meaning is understood.

So clear visual symbols can be critical to the design of some communications. They can overcome language and literacy barriers, expedite discussion and reduce confusion.

In these situations, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

The next challenge I am setting myself is to use what I’ve learnt to create an icon that clearly says: “Do you serve chocolate cake?”

 

Tamara Goodings is a graphic designer and Industry Placement Student at Wellmark.

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