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Ashley Booth, Professor in Visual communication (  

Linda H. Lien, Associate professor in graphic design (

In Pictogram-me we aim to highlight the experiences of those who have a difficult daily life, a challenging existence.

By the help of pictograms we wish to contribute to increased reflection on life’s complexity, and to give the challenged a additional voice to express themself. Pictogram-me is a artistic research project developed at Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Department of design, supported by the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme. 

We can all feel underprivileged and have a "difficult day".

It can apply for shorter or longer periods and it may affect us as an individual or as part of a group facing challenges in society. In “Pictogram-me” we will work with some of those who have a difficult life.

By asking the "Challenged" to show us (visualize) and tell us about their lives, we will collect the stories of a difficult life and transform them into a series of pictograms.

The objective of “Pictogram-me” is to conduct a visual examination of various experiences and perceptions. By using pictograms as a visual instrument to create an open language that can be ambiguous and impartial and may also may provoke new interpretations that question attitudes.

The desired outcome of the project is to highlight the challenges of an underprivileged existence. By presenting the new pictograms in public spaces, the project wants to promote empathy amongst the general public for “Challenged” persons and their situations.

The "Challenged"

The "Challenged" is used here as a generic term for individuals or groups of individuals who, for shorter or longer periods of time, have faced debiliating challenges. There can be many different types of challenges - related to being unemployed, in poverty, a victim of crime, incarcerated, a prostitute, an immigrant, a drug addict, elderly, a sexual deviant or having lifestyle diseases, physical or sensory disabilities or mentally challenged.


The word "empathy" can be translated as insight, solidarity and sharing feelings. Being empathetic means you have the ability to emotionally put yourself into another’s place, into another’s feelings and how another, with his background and history, experiences his situation. We want the pictograms to challenge established prejudices by providing new insights and opportunities for interpretation.


Pictograms are by definition simple characters that convey information effortlessly. We are surrounded by thousands of them each day - as the friendly couple on public toilets, on cell phones, computers, weather maps and road signs, they are there to inform and warn, or sometimes just to decorate.

The project "Pictogram-me" aims to experiment and investigate whether pictograms, which are normally accepted as simple and not very flexible visual messages, can express complex social messages. The target is to develop pictograms that encourage the viewer to reflect on human existence and moral values, thus inspiring new philosophical perspectives.

Pictogram-me is an artistic research project developed at Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Department of design, supported by the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme.