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The first METACOM symbols were created for my daughter Meta, who, due to her disability, was not able to use other symbol systems. Since other children and adults could use METACOM symbols to their advantage, I decided to expand METACOM, with the goal of a symbol system that is espacially easy to understand.

Before I started with METACOM, I had already acquired experience in designing other kinds of symbols, i.e. icons for orientation in buildings or explaining functions of devices. Simple, stylized and highly communicative pictograms have been fascinating for me ever since. Years later my daughter made it clear to me, how important the quality of symbols can be for their understanding.

METACOM is a professionally designed symbol system especially developed for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), whose continuous development I still enjoy doing. The need for better means of communication for my daughter Meta, but also the positive responses and suggestions from users, parents, teachers, therapists, etc. made METACOM possible.

Symbols for successful communication

A special feature of this symbol system is its large core-vocabulary, which has been extended even more in METACOM 7. The category Little Words contains 312 symbols, Attributes/Emotions has 475 symbols, Verbs features 838 symbols, Time consists of 222 symbols, Conversation/Interactions includes 202 symbols and Questions contains 109 symbols.

METACOM symbols are very easily understood. Apart from a few exceptions they do not need abstract content and the basic vocabulary is completely self-explanatory. Many symbols of commonly used systems require someone to explain their meaning. But how are you supposed to explain to a child with little speech comprehension that a huge snow crystal stands for a small snowflake or even snowfall? If only depicted by small white dots, the term „snow“ could be easily confused with hail or rain. A snow-covered car, however, which can be seen every day when leaving the house, is more obvious choice.

In other symbol systems words that can not be depicted in an obvious way are represented with complex combinations of arrows, lines and dots. These are illustrated differently in METACOM: They tell distinct stories which, just like the arrow-line-dot combinations, need to be explained, but are a lot easier to remember.

METACOM symbols are easy to see and identify, small-sized as well as big-sized, also for someone with low vision.

Thick, distinct outlines and clear colors play a big part in this. Equally as important is avoiding unnecessary details as well as using uniform perspective in order to emphasize typical outer contours. For example, vehicles are always shown from the side, without a perspective view and all in the same way, because their side view is typical. If – as in many other symbol systems – the vehicles are shown for example from the front, then from an angle, and sometimes from the side, with a different view in each symbol, extremely important properties for distinguishing and recognizing are being left out. The outer contour of a car that is shown from an angle might resemble more an undefined smudge, especially if viewed in small scale or by someone with impaired vision.

METACOM symbols are created with high design standard, aiming to support communication with symbols that are easy to understand and remember.

While METACOM started off using a vocabulary suited for children, it now contains many words that are important for adolescents and adults, which is why METACOM symbols are used in many facilities for adults with disabilities. Many room labels for facilities such as kindergartens, schools, residential homes, workshops etc., also pictures for German children‘s songs used to create boards and cards from which to choose the songs, conclude the vocabulary.

METACOM‘s development is constantly continued and also expanded in English language, for future updates I‘d be happy to receive suggestions.

New in June 2015!

Find symbols faster

A new search engine features a keyword search, so that it will not only show the exact results for the word entered, but also symbols with similar meaning.

  • More than 8000 symbols especially designed for AAC
  • Find symbols faster with the English and German keyword search MetaSearch
  • Symbols available as JPGs and PNGs with transparent backgrounds for easy combining with other symbols and coloured backgrounds, soon also available as PDFs
  • Many symbols have monochrome versions
  • Various layout templates for most common office applications to insert the symbols with a text frame, also available for room labels
  • The AAC iPad app MetaTalkUS uses the English METACOM symbols, more applications in planning
  • Requests for usage in other applications, apps etc. are welcome
System Requirements METACOM can be used on Mac and PC, the search function MetaSearch requires Mac OS or Windows XP and higher. (Mac OS is a trademark of Apple, Windows XP from Microsoft.)