Cultural interpretations of the visual meaning of icons and images used in North American web design

Knight E., Gunawardena C., Aydin C. H.

EDUCATIONAL MEDIA INTERNATIONAL, vol.46, no.1, pp.17-35, 2009 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 46 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/09523980902781279
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.17-35
  • Keywords: design of images and icons, cross-cultural design, multimedia design, distance education
  • Anadolu University Affiliated: Yes


This study examines cross-cultural interpretations of icons and images drawn from US academic websites. Participants from Morocco, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the USA responded to an online questionnaire containing 18 icons and images representing online functions and information types common on US academic websites. Participants supplied meanings for icons and images and selected a preferred image to represent each of four specific online functions. From three images of professors, participants chose one with whom they would prefer to study. Data were collected at the University of New Mexico, USA; in Internet cafes in the Middle Atlas region and at Al-Akhawayn University, Morocco; the Open University of Sri Lanka in Nawala, Nugegoda; and at Anadolu University, Turkey. A qualitative analysis examines participants' perspectives and preferences for specific representations and identifies cultural themes in relation to Hofstede's dimensions. Implications for the design of images for cross-cultural users are discussed.