Pictograms and Gender

After posting my screencast on Creating Pictogram People in PowerPoint using 3 Shapes, I looked at the samples I shared and realized they were all quite “mannish.” Generally, I think pictogram people, due to their very nature, should be gender-less. They are just shapes put together to represent a person. This makes it easy when developing something like e-learning courses where you want a non-gender specific representation of a person. Like, for instance, this: person

But is that image really gender-less? Do we look at the head with no hair and automatically assume male? Do we end up taking a supposedly gender neutral image and assign a gender to it automatically? We take pictograms and tweak them to have neckties (male) and dresses (female) to be simple representations of gender. Is that right or wrong? Should we do that?

I don’t know if there is a “right” or a “wrong.” I think you can try to ascribe a gender-less person by using the generic image as shown above. But, sometimes you want to have male and female representations in your pictograms. However, in those instances, make sure you have both genders represented. In my original post, I unconsciously created people that looked male (e.g., bow tie, neck tie, v-neck, etc.). See below.


As I mentioned, I realized this soon after posting, but I also got called out (thanks Johnine) in a comment on the post. Rightly so, I might add.


So, I set about to create some female pictogram people. I’ll share the source file for those too. I’m not sure how I did on representing femaleness. I found it hard to try to make these three-quarter people look female. One limitation I placed on myself for both sets of people was to keep the head bare (just an oval). I found myself wanting to add “female” things to the head, like a bow (I know, these are supposed to be women, not 6 yr-olds) or some kind of hair that would look female. Again, this is another thing you can’t assume, because both women and men can have either short or long hairstyles. Another “easy” way to represent females in pictogram form is by way of a dress. Two problems here. Why do women have to be identified by wearing a dress? And, even if I wanted to go that route, these are three-quarter people with no legs. No legs, no dress, no pants, no dice.

Here’s a picture of the samples I came up with.


I think some of these look more like standard assumptions of “female” as compared to the original male oriented set. But, I’m not crazy about them. I probably could have done more if I hadn’t also limited myself to the 3 shape rule. As in my first set, I limited myself to creating each of these with only three shapes (oval, triangle, and tab) to show how simple it is to create people in PowerPoint. Maybe I could have come up with other (better) representations? I’m not sure, but this was a good exercise in thinking about what constitutes “male” and “female.”

Judy Katz wrote an excellent article in Learning Solutions Magazine on Gender Representation in eLearning. You should check it out. And while you’re at it, read this article by Trina Rimmer.

Building on Shared Assets

Recently I created a nested timeline template in Storyline and shared the source file with the E-Learning Heroes community.


Click image to view timeline interaction.

In the spirit of sharing and showing my work, I’ve started sharing all of my source files. Not because I think I’m great and my files are the best, but because I have benefited from what others have shared in this community and feel it is only right to share what I’ve created too. Someone might be able to use a template or an interaction I’ve created to solve a problem or fill a need. Or someone might offer some helpful advice or critique that improves my design. Or, as I’ve done in my nested timeline template, someone might build upon the work others have shared.

Anyone who is part of the E-Learning Heroes community knows how amazing this community is, with its incredible user-base to it’s sharing blog posts, assets, and various tips and tricks. I’ve talked about how I feel about this community before. However, after I finished building and sharing my nested timeline example another thought struck me. This community is built on the generous sharing of many folks. I’ve used many a tip or asset I’ve found in this community in building my e-learning courses. But what is even more powerful to me is to see the many instances of building upon shared resources. Taking something someone created and adding to it, subtracting from it, enhancing it, or merely tweaking it to make it something new.

Nested Button Animation by Josh Stoner

Nested Button Animation by Josh Stoner
Click image to see it in action.

For instance, I built the nested timeline example on the work of Josh Stoner, who created a nested button animation, shared the source file, and wrote a guest-post on how he created the interaction. I was inspired by Josh’s work. I wanted to challenge myself to create another way to utilize the interaction.

Another instance of building upon shared resources, is the 10-minute E-learning Template Transformations series of posts written by Trina Rimmer. (full disclosure: Trina reworked one of my templates)

10-minute-transformFor each post, Trina took a community-shared template and completely reworked it with a different look and feel, and a different topic. The focus here wasn’t to take someone’s work and make it “better.” Quite the contrary. Trina saw something in each of the templates that she could build upon and make into her own version. Rather than re-creating the wheel, she worked from a solid base (that was freely shared in the community) and created something new. And, in the process, probably inspired someone else to build off of what she created!

Thermometer Progress Meter by Bruce Graham

Thermometer Progress Meter by Bruce Graham
Click image to see it in action.

David Anderson frequently uses this technique in constructing the weekly E-Learning Heroes Challenges. He usually presents the challenge and then provides several examples of similar creations either from the Heroes Community or from cool interactions he’s found on the Internet. For example, in the Progress Meters in E-learning challenge, he used the source files provided by community members Jeff Kortenbosch, Alexandros Anoyatis, and Bruce Graham as examples of how to make progress meters. By providing the source files, other community members could “look under the hood” and perhaps find inspiration in creating their own progress meter.


Steal this Template by Jackie Van Nice
Click image to see it in action.

Sometimes David finds inspiration in one community member’s source file and builds a challenge around it, such as using Jackie Van Nice‘s template in the Steal This E-Learning Template challenge.


As another example, Tom Kuhlmann frequently gives kudos to community members in The Rapid E-Learning Blog. In his post, Over 800 E-learning Examples to Inspire Your Course Design, he mentions an interaction created by Melissa Milloway. Tom shares the interaction, talks about reworking it, and then shares his reworked version. Tom explains how he built upon Melissa’s interaction by stating:

Melissa’s demo had me wondering what I’d do to make the diver look like he was changing position as he was dragged. I also wanted to include some air bubbles for effect. So I took her idea and then played around for a few minutes and created this.

Scuba Steve by Melissa Milloway

Scuba Steve by Melissa Milloway
Click image to see it in action.

Tom Kuhlmann's version of Scuba Steve

Tom Kuhlmann’s version of Scuba Steve
Click image to see it in action.








The point I’m trying to make is that sharing is more than just posting your course, template, interaction, etc. in the community. Sharing involves interaction. Building on shared assets is a win-win all around. The person sharing gets to see their work re-purposed or enhanced. The person building upon the original work has seen the value of someone else’s work and used it as a starting point for their own creation. Finally, the rest of the community benefits by having access to two shared examples. And who knows? Someone else make take those two examples and build another. How are you sharing your work? Are you interacting with others in the community? Are you sharing built assets or building on shared assets?