Graphics and multimedia can help bridge chasms of language, but not without careful attention to differences in the ways people experience these media. Here are some media-specific tips to help make the media you use work for a global audience.
Pictures are independent of language but only if they are properly designed. Create images that have the same meaning in all cultures. Avoid symbols with offensive or emotional associations.
Details that could inform one audience can confuse or distract another. To make symbols international, design objects that are abstract enough to avoid cultural associations. There is a fine line between making an image recognizable and making it culturally specific. Choose graphics that your international readers can identify, but take care to include only those details that enhance recognition. Some suggestions are:
Disguise or diminish national differences like national clothing styles or the shape of power plugs.
Hide audience-specific details by deleting them, blurring them, or picking a viewpoint that does not show such details.
Use an icon or simplified drawing instead of a realistic drawing or photograph.
Obscure or omit textual labels. For instance, show keyboards with blank keys. Indicate particular function keys by position, not by name or label.
Show all possible instances if you cannot disguise variable features.