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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-98-164
Date: May 1998

In-Vehicle Display Icons and Other Information Elements: Literature Review






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 the first product of the analytical phase. It provides a literature review of research associated with in–vehicle icons and symbols, and describes current test and evaluation practices for icons. It also summarizes driver information requirements for in–vehicle messages and the current use of icons and symbols by manufacturers and after–market vendors.

Copies of this report can be obtained through the Research and Technology Report Center, 9701 Philadelphia Court, Unit Q, Lanham, Maryland 20706, telephone: (301) 577–0818, fax: (301) 577–1421, or the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, Virginia 22161, telephone: (703) 605–6000, fax: (703) 605–6900.

Michael F. Trentacoste
Director, Office of Safety
Research and Development


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1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3. Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle


5. Report Date

May 7, 1998

6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

Cher Carney, John L. Campbell, and Elizabeth A. Mitchell

8. Performing Organization Report No.
9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Battelle Human Factors Transportation Center
4000 NE 41st Street
Seattle, WA 98105

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)
11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Safety Research and Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101–2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Literature Review

October 1997 – May 1998

14. Sponsoring Agency Code
15. Supplementary Notes

Contracting Officer's Technical Representative (COTR): Thomas Granda, HRDS

16. Abstract

This report describes the objectives, methods, and findings associated with Task A: Perform Literature Review. The purpose of Task A is to conduct a review of relevant symbols and research, including the use of symbols by manufacturers and after–market vendors for existing and planned in–vehicle systems. The methodology employed to complete Task A included: examining articles collected as part of Battelle's previous guideline development efforts, conducting extensive database searches, and accessing the Internet to gather information regarding the most current use of symbols in existing and future in–vehicle information systems. More than 200 articles, several books, and more than 100 websites were found via this methodology.

On the basis of our review and analyses of the literature for icon and symbol research and current applications, we developed the following conclusions: (1) the lack of guidelines and standards for icons has resulted in design by consensus, a lack of scientific rigor in icon development, and multiple icons for the same messages; (2) existing literature and standards provide little guidance for the design of new icons for in–vehicle information system (IVIS) devices; (3) general design principles for icon design are sufficient to avoid development of a bad icon, but are not specific enough to support development of the best icon; (4) development of new icons and symbols for in–vehicle devices will require iterative testing and evaluation; existing test and evaluation methods provide sufficient scientific rigor for future evaluations of icons and symbols; and (5) despite industry concerns over the utility and relevance of human factors design guidelines, rigorous and proven methods for design guideline development exist and will be used in Tasks C and F of this project.

17. Key Words

Human Factors, Driver Information, Icons, Symbol Design

18. Distribution Statement

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

19. Security Classif. (of this report)


20. Security Classif. (of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price

Form DOT F 1700.7 (8–72) Reproduction of completed page authorized



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