Every picture tells a story - using Widgits at the Eden Project
If you are a regular visitor to Eden you may be used to seeing images and symbols on the signs, interpretation boards and publications throughout the site. The pictures add interest to messages and make interpretation boards more interesting and attractive. But they are much more than mere decoration. The symbols are Widgits, a language designed to communicate messages through pictograms, sharing the messages with people who cannot access text.
Widgits are designed primarily for people with learning disabilities, but we've found them being used by young children, people with low literacy skills and people who don't have English as a first language. Ten years ago we worked with Widgit Software and the Eden Project to pioneer the use of Widgit symbols on signs, exhibits and educational information throughout the Eden Project. We wanted to bring symbol language out of specialist education and into public life, providing visitors with visual prompts to illustrate the meaning of individual words.
Examples of using Widgits at the Eden Project
We added Widgits to many of the interpretation panels throughout the Eden site. This is an example from the Warm Temperate Biome - the series of Widgit symbols at the bottom carry a central message, in this example about the adaptation of plants to a particular microclimate.
Collectively we have received positive feedback about the symbols. From feedback collected by Widgit Software we know that some visitors have come to Eden because they have heard that Widgit symbols are used.
Key design features include paying attention to symbol and text size and visual contrast between graphics and background. Also, keeping it simple and not trying to translate overly complex messages or too much information.
The coffee exhibit in the Rainforest Biome was the first exhibit design to incorporate Widgit symbols. The exhibit was a collection of coffee trees planted in a wooden boat, symbolising the journey of the coffee, from plantation to consumer. The principle message was the extraordinary number of steps involved from planting the coffee bean, through cultivation, harvest, processing, retailing and drinking a cup of coffee. Widgit symbols were engraved into the edge of the wooden coffee boat, each one representing a step of the process.
This proved to be fascinating to a much wider audience than we'd expected - we found whole families following the sequence of symbols, working out what each one represented and often finding that it was the children leading the deciphering of the story.
We also installed a metal strip imprinted with Braille along the inner edge of the boat rim.
Visitor information - the stories behind the exhibits
A series of Discover Eden booklets were designed by the Sensory Trust in different languages. This included Widgit as well as ones in Large Print, Easy English, Braille, German, French and Japanese.
For the Widgit version, we worked with Cate Detheridge from Widgit Software. Cate translated the booklets into Widgit in both a full symbol version and a symbol supported set and developed some activity packs to accompany the packs. The booklets were produced in hard copy, available to look at in the Core education centre at Eden. The covers were printed on a thin wood, giving an attractive and durable finish. Inside, the contents were loose-bound to enable updates to be added easily.
Follow this link to read more about the guides and download them.
Links to case studies and guidance
- Accessible information - why it matters, who benefits, links to more case studies
- Widgit - how this pictorial symbol language helps people with learning difficulties
- A focus on learning disability - benefits of the outdoors
- Food Tastes Better Outdoors - using Widgits to promote health eating outdoors
- Guidance - find advice to help you plan and design accessible information
Can we help?
Sensory Trust consultancy services include designing and advising on:
- on-site and pre-visit visitor guides, leaflets, booklets
- maps, trail markers, signage
- games, activities to engage the senses