Our adventure with KomunIKON started, as it is often the case, as the crazy dream of a small group of friends. Being all language lovers, some for passion, some for work, we often met to practice our languages or simply to talk about the wonders of human languages. It is during one of those discussions that we started to realize, with a bit of disappointment, that writing systems are language-specific: an English text can be understood only if you know English, and this stands true for French, Arabic, Chinese, and any other language. Being linguists, polyglots, language enthusiasts, we got intrigued by this issue and we started wondering: is an alternative possible? Can we create such a language?

Drawing from our experience in various domains of linguistics, combining elements from Esperanto, Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Chinese, Quechua, and endless other sources, we started imagining a coherent, structured system of icons that could work as a true, fully fledged visual language.

And it is so that one evening, while having dinner in a Turkish Kebab restaurant in Neuchâtel, Ikon was born...

What it is

Emoji today are more used than English and Chinese, but they are not a language. At the same time, we realized that an Icon language can be crucial in emergency situations like the current COVID-19 pandemic. We thus created Ikon: an iconic language and the tools to support it.

What it does

Our tool allows to translate sentences into icons, in a precise and easy way. In particular we have created iconic sentences about the COVID-19, aimed at migrants in Switzerland.

Challenges we ran into

There were no guidelines to follow, we had to find the way to create iconic sentences that could efficiently deliver crucial messages in emergency situations in easy and neutral ways, something that has never been done in the world before.

Accomplishments that we are proud of

We inspired many people, building a great team and we created a prototype, a video, a website and we participated in the VersusVirus Hackathon.

What we learned

There is no surefire recipe for success, but if you want to make an idea into a product, a great team, leadership and productive collaboration are needed.

What's next for ICONS versus VIRUS

We are going to find resources to pay a professional team in order to bring the project to the next step, helping Swiss institutions and NGOs to iconify key sentences on the CoronaVirus and on other hot topics. After the CoronaVirus crisis, we want to enlarge our scope to other domains, including the educational domain, particularly visual language learning for children and migrants in Switzerland.

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ai, invision, java, jitsi, languages, sketch, zeplin

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