Quality of public symbol : the five principles supported by the drawings of young users

Kin Wai Michael Siu, Y.L. Wong, M.S. Lam

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


Although public symbols are designed and meant for conveying information in public areas, their comprehensibility is low, and sometimes their users are unable to understand them without explanations aside. Some of these symbols are pertinent to safety issues, and people may violate the law if they do not behave as the symbols instruct. The quality of public symbols is thus in question. Based on the literatures and the real examples of public symbols found in Hong Kong and other places, the paper suggests that five principles are necessarily to be considered in symbol design so that public symbols with better quality can be developed. These five elements are substantiality, concreteness, the balance between complexity and simplicity, the inclusion of context and users. Support for the claims was then strengthened by the drawings originated from 65 children aged seven to twelve years old. It is believed in order to have better quality of public symbols, it is important to have a balanced approach of fulfilling the five principles to maximize the effectiveness and comprehensibility of symbols.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication[Missing Source Name from PIRA]
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventToulon-Verona (ICQSS) International Conference on “Excellence in Services” -
Duration: 1 Jan 2015 → …


ConferenceToulon-Verona (ICQSS) International Conference on “Excellence in Services”
Period1/01/15 → …


  • Public symbols
  • Comprehensibility
  • Symbol quality
  • Young users
  • Drawings


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