An Australian designer and engineer are leveraging the rapid rise of emoticons to develop a new visual language, to break down barriers and provide a new form of communication for the digital age.
“If you look at the concept of the old saying, a picture tells one thousand words, it’s actually true,” says Piqify co-founder, Luke Feldman.
“We’ve created something that anyone from any culture can communicate with,” says the Melbourne based designer.
He and co-founder, Shourov Bhattacharya say Piqify is a visual communication language for a new generation – using universally comprehensible symbols that can be combined together using grammatical rules to express and communicate.
Hieroglyphics to emojis
“The reason emojis were invented – it was by a professor in the US and he would be writing to his students and lecturers and they’d be misunderstanding the context of what he was saying.
“So he created the little colon and the bracket smiley face to change the context.
“In Chinese and Japanese cultures, there’s icons and language that there’s no English translation for.
“If you go back to the land of hieroglyphics, it was a really interesting pictorial language, but hieroglyphics is limited to one culture.
“We’ve created something that anyone from any culture can communicate with, which is just taking it to the next level.”
The visual generations
Mr Feldman and engineer, Mr Bhattacharya say businesses are failing to connect with this next generation of consumers, who’ve moved away from text.
They cite figures showing 36 per cent of millenials say GIFs and emojis “convey their thoughts and emotions better than words”
Mr Feldman says currently the field of emojis and emoticons is not expansive and nuanced enough to convey more complex expressions and directions.
“They’re an image – it’s a car, it’s a happy face, a sad face, but there’s no function, there’s no action in there, it’s not like, let’s go and meet and do this together, or what would you like for dinner,” he says.
“Leveraging that, we’ve created the language to extend it and take it way beyond the terms of traditional icons or a symbol.”
A history of communication
The development of the platform has seen the pair carry out indepth research across a range of fields, including visual design, linguistics, semiotics, psychology, cognitive science, information theory, user interface design, computer science, natural language processing – all detailed in Piqify’s white paper.
Mr Feldman believes this new enhanced form of visual communication will be crucial for organisations looking to connect with diverse communities across a global economy.
“One very good example is airlines, if I’m on Singapore Airlines and the menu is in English and I don’t speak English, there’s a real disconnect there,” he says.
“Using something like Piqify, we can now create a language independent experience that can be deployed to any Singapore Airlines’ plane, anywhere in the world.
“Everyone can understand what they need to do, whether that’s order food, water, in-flight entertainment, communicate or ask for blankets and pillows,” he says.
An inclusive language
Mr Feldman says the platform has been successfully trialled with international students studying in Australia, to help them overcome language barriers and better engage in class.
“The teacher can say, we’re talking about this, I’d really love your feedback and the students are able to quickly respond with I get it, or I’m confused, or this is how am I feeling, or can I talk to you about this later,” he says.
“And then post class, which has been really interesting, is allowing students, no matter what their cultures to say, hey let’s catch up for beer, or let’s do something together.”
Unlike learning a foreign text based language, like French or Indonesian, which takes the average person years to effectively converse in, Mr Feldman says visual communication can be much more intuitive and familiar.
“We’ve designed this based off existing imagery already out there,” he says.
“For example, a male and female toilet, a plane taking off, or an exit.
“We also see a role for it in helping with learning difficulties and autism and assisting in communication.
“There’s a lot of symbols and imagery in the world that we’ve leveraged off so people already know this.
“There is no learning curve to this, you pick it up and start using it.”
More info – Piqify