Part III of a blog series about privacy, and how we can raise awareness through a universal privacy label.

After establishing a concrete understanding of the current state of privacywhy it matters, and how we can rank it in our previous two posts, our next phase of research was sparked by another question: how can we translate our privacy ranking system into an informative, aesthetically pleasing visual?

This post explores an overview of existing visual communication systems and our insights into them.


Everyday we’re unconsciously exposed to an endless amount of visual stimulation: signs, stickers, and more. On the internet, we experience the same, only digitally through pop-ups, advertisements, etc.

Examples of visual stimulation on the streets of Utrecht, Netherlands.

Examples of visual stimulation on the streets of Utrecht, Netherlands.

Existing Visual Communication Systems

Before designing a privacy awareness system of our own, we researched, organized, and analyzed existing visual communication systems to look closer at how and why they work. Below are ten of the most noteworthy, powerful, and/or innovative visual communication systems from our findings.

Creative Commons
This non-profit has created several copyright licenses for content creators to easily share their work. Each license comes with a set of visual symbols and a one-page explanation of what the license and symbols mean. It simplifies the complexity of copyright licenses online and offline.

Creative Commons This non-profit has created several copyright licenses for content creators to easily share their work. Each license comes with a set of visual symbols and a one-page explanation of what the license and symbols mean. It simplifies the complexity of copyright licenses online and offline.

Public Transportation Wayfinding
Airports, train stations, and other public transit spaces need to visually communicate where to locate certain platforms, restrooms, or other places to people who might not share a common language or culture.

Public Transportation Wayfinding Airports, train stations, and other public transit spaces need to visually communicate where to locate certain platforms, restrooms, or other places to people who might not share a common language or culture.

ATM Buttons
By using three simple colors like a traffic light, these buttons, often found on ATMs around the world, allow people who may not understand the local language to still navigate and use the machine.

ATM Buttons By using three simple colors like a traffic light, these buttons, often found on ATMs around the world, allow people who may not understand the local language to still navigate and use the machine.

Rank a Brand
“One of Europe’s largest brand-comparison sites on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.” It’s powered by a team of volunteers who research into brand sustainability and social responsibility.

Rank a Brand “One of Europe’s largest brand-comparison sites on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.” It’s powered by a team of volunteers who research into brand sustainability and social responsibility.

Stock Tickers
Extremely simple and intuitive symbols which depict whether stocks are increasing or decreasing.

Stock Tickers Extremely simple and intuitive symbols which depict whether stocks are increasing or decreasing.

Laundry Care Symbols
These pictograms attached to clothing indicate the best way to clean them.

Laundry Care Symbols These pictograms attached to clothing indicate the best way to clean them.

Emojis
Emojis were originally invented in Japan in 1999 as a simpler way to convey thoughts and feelings without having to type out full Japanese characters. Emojis were quickly copied to many mobile operating systems before spreading across the world to become the cultural staple they are today.

Emojis Emojis were originally invented in Japan in 1999 as a simpler way to convey thoughts and feelings without having to type out full Japanese characters. Emojis were quickly copied to many mobile operating systems before spreading across the world to become the cultural staple they are today.

Drug Testing Kits
With drug related deaths and a flood of new “research chemicals” on the rise, companies like Bunk Police sell drug testing kits. Many kits contain a “liquid that changes colors when you combine it with a small amount of your substance.” This allows anyone wanting to reduce harm to easily test their substance by matching their substance’s color change with the kit’s booklet.

Drug Testing Kits With drug related deaths and a flood of new “research chemicals” on the rise, companies like Bunk Police sell drug testing kits. Many kits contain a “liquid that changes colors when you combine it with a small amount of your substance.” This allows anyone wanting to reduce harm to easily test their substance by matching their substance’s color change with the kit’s booklet.

Uber Beacon
“With this [device], riders can personalize their pickup by selecting from an endless number of colors for [it] to glow on their driver’s vehicle.”

Uber Beacon “With this [device], riders can personalize their pickup by selecting from an endless number of colors for [it] to glow on their driver’s vehicle.”

European Union Energy Label
“The label rates products from dark green (most efficient) to red (least efficient).”

European Union Energy Label “The label rates products from dark green (most efficient) to red (least efficient).”

Insights Gained From Existing Visual Communication Systems

After evaluating these and additional examples, we uncovered that the real power in visually communicating any type of meaning comes down to a balance of applying or combining simple elements like typography, spacing, colors, and symbols.