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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number: FHWA-RD-03-063
Date: September 2004

In-Vehicle Display Icons and Other Information Elements: Volume II

Final Report

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This is one of a series of reports produced as part of a contract to develop precise and detailed human factors design guidelines for in-vehicle display icons and other information elements. The contractual effort consists of three phases: analytical, empirical, and integrative.

This report is a summary of the analytical, empirical, and integrative phases of the In-Vehicle Display Icons and Other Information Elements project. It is an overview of the process used to meet the primary goal of the project: to provide designers of in-vehicle technologies with a set of design guidelines for in-vehicle display icons and other information elements.

Copies of this report may be obtained through the Research and Technology Report Center, 9701 Philadelphia Court, Unit Q, Lanham, MD 20706; telephone: 301-577-0818; fax: 301-577-1421; or the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161; telephone: 703-487-4650; fax: 703-321-8547.

Michael Trentecoste


Office of Safety Research and Development

Federal Highway Administration


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange.  The U.S. Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof.  This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers.  Trade or manufacturers’ names appear herein only because they are considered essential to the objective of this document.


The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and process to ensure continuous quality improvement.

Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No.

3. Recipient's Catalog No.

4. Title and Subtitle

In-Vehicle Display Icons and Other Information Elements: Volume II: Final Report

5. Report Date

September 2004

6. Performing Organization Code

7. Author(s)
Campbell, J.L.

8. Performing Organization Report No.

9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Battelle Human Factors Transportation Center

4500 Sand Point Way NE

Seattle, WA 98105

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.

12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Safety and Traffic Opeations Research and Development

Federal Highway Administration

6300 Georgetown Pike

McLean, VA  22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered


October 1997 to June 2002

14. Sponsoring Agency Code

15. Supplementary Notes

Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR): Thomas M. Granda

16. Abstract

Because of the speed with which IVIS devices are entering the automotive marketplace, many research issues associated with the design of in-vehicle visual symbols and other information elements have not been adequately addressed. The overall goal of the In-Vehicle Display Icons and Other Information Elements project has been to provide the designers of these in-vehicle technologies with a set of design guidelines for in-vehicle display icons and other information elements. Specific objectives of this project were to:

  • Design and perform experimentation to select appropriate symbols for in-vehicle use, then analyze the resulting data to write final guidelines for in-vehicle sysmbols usage encompassing both current and future symbols.
  • Write preliminary, as well as empirically based, final guidelines.

The key product of this project is a set of clear, concise, and user-centered human factors design guidelines for in-vehicle icon design. The guidelines address issues such as the legibility, recognition, interpretation, and evaluation of graphical and text-based icons and symbols. These guidelines provide IVIS developers with key information regarding the use and integration of existing and new visual symbols. In addition, the Icon IDEA software tool developed in this project has provided a real-time icon development and evaluation tool that, to-date, is receiving consistently positive reviews from the project's working group members. This tool is entirely functional and ready to use, and should prove to be an invaluable aid and resource for icon design.

17. Key Words

Icons, In-Vehicle Display Design Guidelines, Auditory Messages, Icon Development, Icon Evaluation, Icon IDEA Software Tool

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions.  This document is available to the public through the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161.

19. Security Classification (of this report)


20. Security Classification (of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price

Form DOT F1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized




  1. Figure 1. The Flow of Project Activities
  2. Figure 2. The Flow of Project Activities (as presented in figure 1)
  3. Figure 3. Flowchart of Task B Activities
  4. Figure 4. Design Tool for Task B
  5. Figure 5. Flowchart of the Design Guidelines Development Process
  6. Figure 6. Developing Individual Guidelines
  7. Figure 7. Proposed Table of Contents for the Task C Preliminary Guidelines
  8. Figure 8. Sample of the Two-Page Format
  9. Figure 9. Contents from Preliminary Guidelines Handbook
  10. Figure 10. Flow of Task D Activities
  11. Figure 11. Examples of General and Specific Icons for Key In Vehicle Message Categories
  12. Figure 12. Diagram. A Sample Page from the Phase 2B Response Booklet
  13. Figure 13. IDEA Start-Up Screen
  14. Figure 14. Results of the "View Icon Pictures" Function
  15. Figure 15. Evaluation Scores for the "Physical Features" for the Traffic Congestion Icon
  16. Figure 16. Comprehension Scores for the Traffic Congestion Icon
  17. Figure 17. Design Recommendations for the Traffic Congestion Icon Relecting the "Physical Features" Evaluation Results


  1. Table 1. Summary of General Design Principles: Group I-IV Messages.
  2. Table 2. Candidate Research Issues Identified During the Early Phases of Task D.
  3. Table 3. Research Issues Developed into Workplans.
  4. Table 4. Table for Rating Each of the Key Issues
  5. Table 5. Results of the Evaluations of the Six Workplans
  6. Table 6. Summary of Options A, B, C, and D
  7. Table 7. The Rank Ordered Means of Experiments 3 and 4 Ratings of Annoyance in the E-Mail Scenario


Automatic Speech Recognition
Advanced Traveler Information Systems
Collision Avoidance Systems
Commerical Vehicle Operations
Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Head-Up Display
Information Organization for Standardization
International Organization for Standardization
Intelligent Transportation Systems
In Vehicle Information Systems
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
Society of Automotive Engineers

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