Grants:IEG/Visual dictionary

statusnot selected
Visual dictionary
IEG key blue.png
summaryThe project aims to coordinate village kids and wikipedians to create an open visual dictionary for basic English words. Local kids expressed enthusiasm to learn graphic design and web 2.0 editing via a Wikimedia project. Along 12 workshops, we want to create with the kids an initial set of 100 consistent vector graphics / English words pairs under CC license, usable to visually teach any language to kids and adults around the world. Wikipedians are encouraged to join in, and share their graphic skills with the kids. After IEG completion, the project will stay open with a list of undone words for further contributions.
targetEnglish and all other Wiktionaries, impact will most benefice to rare languages.
strategic priorityincreasing reach
themeoffline outreach and partnerships
amount8840 US$
this project needs...
community organizer
created on18:05, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
2014 round 2

Project ideaEdit

What is the problem you're trying to solve?Edit

Problem: As wikipedians, we noticed that creating educative materials for the children or foreign language learners is a big challenge. For centuries Visual Dictionaries were considered an effective and efficient approach to attract and retain the attention of young learners, especially for learning language [1]. Such dictionaries have been proposed and asked for several times already among the Wikipedia community, but the workload to create such a set of fairly consistent graphics by incorporating a standard visual language is huge, and doesn't fit the usual non-binding volunteer-based approach.

As volunteer educators in rural areas of Northern India, we noticed the recent entry of affordable Linux based portable PCs in the village of Rakkar,Dharamsala Much like that in many other places in India, rural kids have started engaging with softwares and contents of all kinds. They are especially enthusiastic about learning graphic design (Paint). They are however faced with a lot of challenges, primarily owing to the lack guidance to learn more. The question of English language mastery is also an important point, as it opens doors to more economic opportunities outside the locality.

What is your solution?Edit

Solutions: In collaboration with local kids, we propose an IEG project to support an outreach work centered around creating a Basic English Visual Dictionary via graphic workshops for rural kids.

Raw material : Based on words frequency lists in English and Chinese languages, it is possible to get priority lists of visually representable objects, actions and concepts, which can be explained by vector graphics. Researches in lexicology show that the 300 most frequent English words make up to 72% of common English discourses (Subtlex-US 2009). In other words, a focused effort upon a small set of words can provide great language benefices. The Basic English list is known to contain +200 easily picturable words. With some effort, it is also possible to illustrate action words and more complex notions (pronouns, adjectives) into visual graphics, here again giving the priority to the most frequent ones.

Learning by doing, learning by teaching: Also, we propose to organize workshops where the outreach team and local kids can brainstorm on these most frequent English words to create hand made designs representing the words' concepts. These hand made designs will be the visual concepts/raw material to learn digital graphism and Web 2.0 sharing on Wikipedia. The 12 weeks workshops will transit from paper based design to computer based design, with mentoring from volunteer wikipedians and one professional designer (who is the outreach coordinator). The participants join effort to create an initial set of word-illustration pairs to visually teach basic English to kids around the world. This set will also be the starting block for a long term Wikimedia Visual Dictionary.

Coordinating efforts to put things together: Such a project need a clear framework to be fruitful and a dedicated team to sustain this framework at early stages. Major elements which will structure the project are the following :

  • providing base tools such as a clear word list to work on, clear visual guidelines, a graphic toolkit,
  • creating a culture of easily-editable vector graphics
  • create a forum for the community to interact in developing the visualizations

The final content refined according to agreed design guidelines that follows relevant and consistent design principles, graphic style and color palette (that caters to young learners), will visually explain the content of the dictionary. These CC-license vector graphics can be adopted across platforms for educational purpose.

The world wide spreading of this illustration will build up the pride of the projects members, most notably local kids, who will also have improved their English, computer graphic skills and the sense of community.

Project goalsEdit


  • To create a Visual Dictionary for young learners with a consistent, cohesive and bold visual language.
  • to  bring together a community of editable visual graphics contributors around a common project and visual style
  • to educate children about design and make learning through doing and community involvement in Wikipedia more bright & fun for them
  • to reach out to the young learners of some remote corners of the world and educate them about the values of sharing knowledge over the internet


  • To kickstart a platform where one can contribute & share their visual ideas in the form of SVG which could also be reviewed and edited by the peers in the community.
  • Conduct workshops for children where they can learn digital illustrations while learning a language and learn how to use Wikipedia software’s to upload content to Wiki Commons.
  • Design guidelines or a visual language that can be used on the final content to formalize the visual language of the overall content. By setting design guidelines with standard colors, styles and visual elements, the project is determined to create clean, scalable, print friendly and a cohesive visual language such as seen in the vector graphics below:

Project planEdit

Preparation phaseEdit


  • The listing stage selects a set of words from the word frequency lists of Basic English and Subtlex-US, to design.
  • Study design language of contemporary brands, organizations, and trends at WMF (Mediawiki.ui).


  • Conceptualizing & designing the guidelines for the visual language: • Design principle • Style • Colour • Typography • Elements
  • Building a wireframe for making graphics. Setting dimensions & aspect ratios A pretest on 20-40 images-concepts will help to solidify the project's core guidelines, such as design principles, file dimensions, color palette and overall style. These guidelines will be put together into a WikiVoc_toolbox.svg file, so other users could easily develop on the effort with consistence and elegance. In which case, Salable Vector Graphic (SVG), being widely used and pritable at any size, would be the most viable, adaptable and manageble form of visuals.

(Online) Project wikipage:

  • Create a page for the community to access the guidelines and vector elements to contribute to.
  • Structuring content for the contributors to work on. [Eg.: a set of words to illustrate over one week] in order the manage the flow of content.

Production phaseEdit

Outreach activity:

  • Structuring content for the children to work on. [Eg: First few sets of nouns from the priority list]
  • Children explore English words and associated concepts by freehand drawing/illustration. In this process they also learn the language better and retain visual context to the language.
  • Children are taught Wikipedia softwares to upload content and share data which is then reviewed by the peers/community.
  • As the project unroll, children interact with wikipedia graphists and are taught graphic softwares (Inkscape/Adobe Illustrator) and familiarize with computers assisted design.

Online activity:

  • Calling for wikipedia graphists to join in on the project page
  • Organizing review of kid's designs, vectorize them, improve their svg, teach the kids who learn by doing and with mentors
  • Refine the final content into vector graphics that reflects standard principles of good design, is vibrant, elegant & easy to understand.


  • This project can open new avenues for setting a fresh design language for Wikipedia.
  • It is a community driven initiative, to introduce a trend of clean, scalable and standard graphical contribution.
  • It is a fun and creative initiative, that educates the younger generation about Wikipedia.
  • It also sets out to culture a repository of editable vector graphics, which could be adapted for other purposes in future.

Budget BreakdownEdit

We plan a 16 weeks project, 4 for the preparation phase, 12 for the production phase. Courses will be held each Saturday afternoon, from 1pm to 5pm with a short break about 3pm.

Item Description Units Total (USD)
Project management Managing relationship with WMF, contractors, banks. 2h/week. 2h * 16w * 20$ + 20% taxes 768$
Lexicographic compilation Analyzing existing word frequency lists, illustrated list, English and Chinese.
Output a pathway-list of relevant, high frequency picturable words with meaningful metadata to work efficiently. 3-4 days.
8h * 4d * 20$ + 20% taxes 768$
Graphic designer, task 1 Analysing best practices, build up design guidelines. Review and refine the final content. 6 days. 8h * 6d * 20$ + 20% 1152$
Material needs
Stationery resources Stationery items 4$ * 10 kids + 2*80 $200
Food Food for the kids[2] 3$ * 10 kids * 12 $360
E-pen & print 2 graphic tablet-pens for kids to digitally render their final illustration + 1 middle level color printer. Printing illustration and pining it on the wall. 2 * 79$ + 250$ 408$
Outreach program
Outreach coordination and trainning Conducting workshops with kids (grantee’s time spent on outreach, kit-creation, etc)
12 weeks. 4h preparations a week + 4h workshops.
8h/w * 12w * 20$ + 20% 2304$
Online program (online community support)
Online community manager Experienced wikipedian / wikigraphist to build & maintain the wikipage, call for action, guide, help others. 4h/w * 12w * 20$ + 20% 1152$
Graphic designer (task 2) Support and guide online contributors (wikipedians and kids) on graphic design, refine the final submission. Update the toolkit file as good practices emerges. 6h/w * 12w * 20$ + 20% 1728$
Total: 8840$, including taxes.

Note: Preparations cost according to previous experience in IEG, data mining-cleaning and design experience. Material cost is precisely known as items price are known, may need more tablets if the kids fight for them. Online community support could take twice less or twice more (upfront assessment is not possible). At the end of the program, we will offer the tablets to the 2 most motivated kids.

Intended ImpactEdit

Target audience:

Graphic designers who contribute to Wikipedia. Visual Content is the breakout trend of the year, thanks to the rise of various social media platforms where visual is their prime source of content. Visual content and infographics is a powerful medium of sharing knowledge. It is an efficient and effective way of explaining concepts. It is also the most appealing medium of teaching to the new generation.

Educators who are interested in spreading knowledge about Wikipedia can adapt a similar modus operandi to conduct their own community involvement on visual contribution

These workshops with children of the age 10 to 13yrs could bring new group of young editors to this platform. Since children are best at peer learning, they could be encouraged to spread the word of open knowledge to their peers.

Fit with strategy

This project fits clearly with the overall goal of WMF which is to “empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.”

This projects proposes to set a model of creative activities which involves children, designers and educators across the globe in content creation.


We expect that this initiative will have a great impact on engaging a community to create fresh illustrations, develop certain standards and create a healthy repository of contents. This repository, with a de facto style and helping SVG toolkit, will be expendable by other editors in the coming years. We hope to end up with a large collection of clean graphic/word pairs under CC license, free to be reused in language learning books and apps for kids (and potentially adults) all around the world.

Measures of SuccessEdit

This project can be considered successful if we can manage to

  • involve a group of 10 school students acquiring basic vector graphic skills and contributing to commons
  • involve a healthy group of online contributors in the online community on this long term project
  • create a set of visualizations for at least 100 words  

Community engagementEdit

Such Visual dictionary have been proposed and asked for several times among the Wikimedia communities.

As the project will roll out, we should notify the relevant communities of our progress to encourage them to reuse these materials.

Measures of successEdit

Need target-setting tips? Note: in addition to your project-specific measures of success, you will also be asked to report on some Global Metrics at the end of your final report. Please keep this in mind as you plan, and we'll support you as you begin your project.

  • Outreach experiment :
    • Valuable feedback on kids management : engagement with wikipedia content (contribution / reading)
  • Graphic experiment :
    • Number of vector graphics produced,
    • Graphics quality, consistency
    • Graphics reuse on wiktionary (longer term)

Get involvedEdit

Current ParticipantsEdit

  • SoujanyaaB, previously a designer at Yahoo!R&D India, will be the project leader. Soujanyaa is a professional designer currently taking a year off to setup creating learning environments for kids in rural India, where kids learn design, science, language, technology and are exposed to digital platforms of learning (like Wikipedia etc). Mainly a real-life Wikimedian, Soujanyaa joined and organized a hand of local Wikipedia events in Northern India. The IEG would give her fire power to level up and initiate this long term work.
  • Yug is the main Wikipedian advisor. Hard core wikipedian, long time wikigraphist, former-IEG grantee (Grants:IEG/Wikimaps Atlas), Yug designed the v.1 of this project and suggested the IEG application, which have now evolved quite a bit.

Community NotificationEdit

Please paste links below to where relevant communities have been notified of your proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions. Need notification tips?

The young Wiki enthusiasts who participated in the Wikimedia Hackathon December 2013 (co-ordinated by us) are really excited about this project and are calling out for support.


Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. (Other constructive feedback is welcome on the talk page of this proposal).

  • Community member: add your name and rationale here.
  •   Support Quite liked the project idea. Best wishes --Visdaviva (talk) 11:38, 27 October 2014 (UTC)
  •   Support Interesting idea --AniVar (talk) 21:18, 27 October 2014 (UTC)
  •   Support This is a valuable and solid way to visually reimagine the way we educate people using Wikipedia. Very glad to hear about the sustainability discussions on the talk page as well. I JethroBT (talk) 05:23, 6 November 2014 (UTC)



Words lists:

Illustrated lists : (for inspiration)

  1. See the Chinese reference of visual list of common words, a tradition which at least 8 centuries old.
  2. According to feedback from previous IEG outreach by Keilana, food is critical for outreach programs to work.