Designing universal visuotactile pictograms


  • Andréa Boisadan CESI 93 boulevard de la Seine, 92000 Nanterre Université Paris Descartes, LaPEA, 71 rue Edouard Vaillant, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt, France Tactile Studio, 29 rue Méhul, 93500 Pantin, France
  • Stéphanie Buisine CESI 93 boulevard de la Seine, 92000 Nanterre
  • Philippe Moreau Tactile Studio, 29 rue Méhul, 93500 Pantin, France
  • Yasmine Boumenir CESI 93 boulevard de la Seine, 92000 Nanterre



Universal design, accessibility, visuotactile pictograms, orientation maps, visually impaired people, mental representation


Pictograms are used in all domains of our daily life, in orientation maps in particular. They can be depicted visually or tactilely (in relief) for blind people. The problem is that these existing pictograms are not standardized. The aim of this study was to develop a range of visuotactile orientation pictograms, which would be understandable by all population including adults, children, elderly, foreigners and visually impaired people. We conducted three studies: Study 1 aimed to make sighted users (adults and children) evaluate a set of visuotactile pictograms designed initially for blind users’ in relation with their tactile capacities and mental representation. The results show that many of these pictograms proved to be too specific to be understandable by the general population. To complement these data, we analyzed the impact of colours on the understanding of pictograms by sighted users (Study 2). Finally we conducted a series of creativity workshops with sighted adults, blind adults and sighted children (Study 3) in order to generate a new set of universal visuotactile pictograms. This research contributions are twofold: From a methodological viewpoint, we experienced and observed the limitations of two approaches (top-down and bottom-up) to design universal pictograms. From a practical viewpoint, we provide a set of universal visuotactile pictograms for orientation maps.Relevance to industry: Both the methodological insights and the design results can be useful to practitioners. The new set of universal visuotactile pictograms can be used by signalists to design accessible orientation maps.

Author Biographies

Andréa Boisadan, CESI 93 boulevard de la Seine, 92000 Nanterre Université Paris Descartes, LaPEA, 71 rue Edouard Vaillant, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt, France Tactile Studio, 29 rue Méhul, 93500 Pantin, France

Lecturer and researcher

Stéphanie Buisine, CESI 93 boulevard de la Seine, 92000 Nanterre


Philippe Moreau, Tactile Studio, 29 rue Méhul, 93500 Pantin, France

CEO of Tactile Studio

Yasmine Boumenir, CESI 93 boulevard de la Seine, 92000 Nanterre

Lecturer and researcher


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How to Cite

Boisadan, A., Buisine, S., Moreau, P., & Boumenir, Y. (2020). Designing universal visuotactile pictograms. Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, 10(1), 31–69.