Icon-based communication system pushes the edges of graphic design


The Chinese knew this thousands of years ago: if you want people who speak different languages to communicate effectively, base your alphabet on meanings instead of sounds. In the Chinese alphabet, a single character conveys a word, so the character for a cow means “cow” now matter what word you use to refer to that animal. Most surviving alphabets are phonetic (one symbol = one sound, like the English alphabet) or syllabic (one symbol = one syllable, like Japanese katakana), because they’re more flexible and easy to learn, but a hieroglyphic alphabet like Chinese hanzi is the best for communication across multiple languages.

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