Skip to main contentCarbon Design System


IBM’s pictograms are visual symbols used to represent ideas, objects, or narratives. They can communicate messages at a glance, afford interactivity, and simplify complex ideas. They draw from details found in the Plex typeface and work well in presentations and marketing communications.


Pictograms are illustrative and expressive and can live within a wide variety of scales and environments whether digital or physical. As they are built on the same grid as the rest of the IBM icon family, they share many of the same basic principles but allow for more visual complexity and communication. You may use pictograms to enhance the information you are conveying across various media. It’s important to use pictograms sparingly but effectively throughout your design.

Usage Example
Do give proper space

Do treat pictograms as illustrations and provide proper clearance

Don't replace UI icons with pictograms

Don’t use pictograms as a replacement for UI icons, that is not their purpose.

Don't use pictogram as logo

Don’t use any pictogram as a logo or in a lockup for product headers, merchandise or events.


Pictograms are used in a range of sizes, the minimum being 48px while the maximum size may vary based on application. Use pictograms at their original sizes or scale at accepted increments. You may need to adjust the stroke weight accordingly to accommodate larger scales. For more information on scaling and accessibility, see the section on mini units on the 2X Grid page.

Different sized pictograms
Icon sizeStroke widthPaddingLive areaCorner Radius

There is no set maximum to pictogram sizes. As you scale pictograms to larger sizes you may want to alter stroke weight to accommodate accessibility or environmental factors.


Pictograms are optically aligned to the center of the icon grid within the boundary box. Centering ensures all pictograms will be aligned correctly when exported and used side by side.



Pictograms can be represented in a circular or rectangular container calculated based on the padding size.

Padding ExamplePadding Example

Do follow the clearance rule to allow for legibility and touch.

Containers don't

Don't collapse the pictogram clearance area.

Containers do

Do use accepted shapes: circle or square for containers.

Containers don't

Don’t create new shapes for containers.

Containers do

Do always optically center align pictograms in their containers.

Containers don't

Don’t crop pictograms in container.


When designing with pictograms, all artwork should include minimum padding based on 1/4 of the scaled grid size. The padding can be increased by increments of 1/4 grid units.

Clearance 1 mobile

Padding starts at the edge of the container shape.

Clearance 2 mobile

Padding is the same for both circle and square containers.

Clearance 3 mobile

Same spacing rules apply when using pictograms without containers.

Clearance 4 mobile

Do keep pictograms at scale and optically center in container when necessary.

Clearance 5 mobile

Don’t resize pictograms outside of accepted proportions.

Pictograms in action

Pictogram on Sign
Pictogram as logo
Pictogram on hat
Pictogram on poster
Pictogram on poster
Pictogram example
Pictogram on card
Pictogram on wallpaper