A pictogram, also referred to as a pictograph, uses symbols to depict information. Typically the symbols in a pictogram resemble some physical object. Below is a pictogram in which stick figures are used to represent the 200 people taking a class at each of the offered times.
The pictogram shows that the most preferred times for the class are 11 am and 2 pm. Fewer people prefer to take the same class at 8 am or at 6 pm. Pictograms are typically used in order to make the data more interesting, or easier to understand. They also usually include a key that indicates what each symbol represents. In the pictogram above, each stick figure represents 10 people. Therefore, there are 35 people in the 8 am class, 70 in the 11 am class, 60 in the 2 pm class, and 45 in the 6 pm class.
Pictograms are useful as quick graphics, but depending on what is being depicted, may not be the most accurate. In the example above, dividing the stick figure in half to represent 5 people is relatively straightforward, but for other values, such as 2, or 3, we would most likely round the number of people rather than trying to represent some smaller fraction of 10.
The above pictogram was constructed horizontally, but it is also possible to have vertical pictorgrams, which can be quite similar to dot plots. Below is a pictogram of the number of glasses of water James drank in the past week.
From the pictograph, we can see that James drank the most water on Thursday and Sunday, and the least on Monday. Using the pictogram, if we also had more information about James' schedule, we may be able to determine why he drinks more or less water on certain days.
Like any other type of chart or graph, it is important to know when it is appropriate to use a pictogram rather than some other chart.