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three symbols design, purple colour and draw tree

E.A. Draffan

Open-design and Co-Creation of AAC Pictographic Symbols

There is something very special about an open licenced AAC symbol set that can be adapted to suit user needs, plus changes that occur in society or settings over time. When the gift of a free symbol set has been handed down over a series of decades, and can be kept alive due to the nature of a Creative Commons Licence, we need to respect its original style and schema in order to maintain continuity.

Over the last couple of months thanks to the support of Steve Lee who has written about the impact of COVID and an Open Communication Symbols Ecosystem plus our Churchill Fellowship COVID-19 Action Fund we have been exploring the challenges of open design and co-creation of individual symbols.

Chris O'Shea, as an expert in graphic design applications and I have been exploring the way the Mulberry pictographic symbols have been designed using the overview of the categories as a guide as well as the actual Mulberry symbols.

Just taking the symbols for directional prepositions showed there were differences in the width and size of lines and arrow styles. This is not surprising as several have different uses, but to make a schema for the different elements it is important to have some way of standardising elements.

descriptive prepositions comparison

Chris provided a series of templates that make it possible to copy the various sizes so they have the correct proportions for the various positions, the same type of arrow heads and angles etc. This means that arrow and line types can be used with new symbols knowing they carry the correct style.

document palette

Chris has also sorted out a way of showing the colour palette that is used with individual Mulberry symbols so that any changes can be matched. We are now discussing how to offer tags for each .svg so that the metadata can be saved with the symbols as suggested in a LexDis blog about images and metadata for accessibility.

The next stage is to workout how we can share more templates linked to the various symbol designs in formats that make it easier for open design and co-creation to happen when developing new symbols. There will be updates to add to the original schema with style notes to help those in the coming decades to continue the work.

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