When two people from different cultures who speak different languages meet,
a communication barrier is sometimes created.

In these situations, they usually try to express themselves better by gesturing
and "acting" what they are trying to say. However, some gestures vary from culture to culture.

“Pictogest” is a device that helps you communicate in an easier way by illustrating a situation using your own natural gestures and translating them into visual representation according to a personal database. “Pictogest”'s main intention is to narrow the gap between different cultures and create a new way to communicate without the need to learn a new language.

Process and Solution

Problems and opportunities mapping  

Initial Ideation process

In order to understand the language barrier better, we began by looking into different attempts to create an international language. We tried to understand why most, if not all, are not used today.

We analyzed different solutions that had been done, by gaming, art works, previous research of culture and habits, we concluded  that most of these solutions still have to be learned, or are not easy to understand. In addition, because of the internet, nowadays it seems that English has become sort of an international language, but, not everyone speaks it well enough to communicate.

Once we understood the problem, we saw an opportunity to envision and find a creative method to help people communicate and understand each other. Accordingly, we arrived at Pictogest as our solution.

The purpose of “Pictogest” is to enable communication between two different people who speak different languages and come from different cultures.

The concept for “Pictogest” first came from a much simpler idea – creating a pictogram language - 
There are many pictogram languages, from the Egyptian hieroglyphs to traffic signs.

Examining pictogram languages that have been developed before, the idea of having a language made out of pictograms seemed simple and smart, but not natural and international enough.
In Otto Neurath's "International Picture Language", it seems that pictograms can be used easily to describe statistics and to create infographics, but not well enough to create a "spoken" language.
Another example is "Book from the ground" by Xu Bing. In this book, Bing tells a story only in icons and pictograms. This story is readable in most cases, but not as easy and smooth as we expected.

When trying to figure out how to explain with pictograms different cultures, we came across with Yang Liu's game  that shows minimalistic visualizations that explain the differences between eastern and western cultures, which helped us do the connection with pictograms and culture.
Combining the pieces together showed us that pictograms are not enough to express yourself clearly without making an effort. Furthermore, it revealed the fact that each pictogram may have several meanings.

“Pictogest” uses a motion sensing device (e.g. Kinect) to capture the gestures; these gestures are then translated into visuals that vary between pictograms and pictures from personal databases (e.g. Facebook / Instagram).

"How to drink Tequila?" - Gestures


“Pictogest” creates an experience that helps people have smoother communication and share information in a more pleasant way, without the necessity of speaking a common language. “Pictogest” is personalized in a way that allows everyone to have a better understanding.

We found that “Pictogest”'s best use is in describing intangibles like taste, smell, describing other objects, processes and Instructions.
The visualization generated by “Pictogest” is easy to understand, fun to use and can be archived for re-use anytime.

A potential critical aspect of “Pictogest” is that the user will have to go through a short adjustment and learning period in which he will need to adapt to using gestures to express himself in the most accurate way.  

The values of “Pictogest” range from a more personalized explanation, having an option of learning from others’ experience to having an enjoyable experience while using the interface. In addition having the possibility to understand different behaviors and different cultures opens a new path of communication.
Our group’s final presentation

Team Members: Rana Mansour, Eray Alan, Hadar Geva | Domus Academy Master in Interaction Design