Research Output

Rich Pictures: collaborative communication through icons.

  A visual language of pictures, such as the rich picture used in the Soft System Methodology, offers a way of global communication that far exceeds the limitations of text and speech. Simple graphics can be rapidly communicated, processed and transmitted within a large and culturally diverse constituency. This paper looks at the benefits and interpretative risks when using rich pictures for system understanding. The aim of this paper is twofold: firstly to report upon an observation of a large scale collaborative diagramming workshop and compare the resulting pictures with a previous workshop study. Secondly, to develop further ongoing research which suggests rich picture construction can be aided by providing an icon legend. This paper compares 2 rich picture workshops: the diagramming workshop at the Open University eSTEeM Diagramming Colloquium in March 2012 and a workshop held in Heriot Watt University in February 2012. The comparative results are set against the ongoing empirically grounded rich picture research within Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. Preliminary results suggest there are a set of distinguishable icons and shapes that are generic across all rich pictures regardless of domain. Further analysis of the early results suggests a natural intrinsic grammar is manifested within rich pictures in terms of relationships, icons, context and connectors.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    31 August 2013

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Springer US

  • DOI:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science


Berg, T., & Pooley, R. (2013). Rich Pictures: collaborative communication through icons. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 26, 361-376.



Rich picture; Visual communication; Language; Icon; Workshop;

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