For centuries, images were regarded as inferior to language and seen as an embellishment or decoration, despite their undoubted power to transmit information. This held back the development of graphical presentations of data, because numbers in tables were seen as more trustworthy. The presentation of statistics in charts only began at the end of the eighteenth century. ‘Picture language’ concentrates on a component shared by data visualization and wider graphic communication—the symbol—a graphic object used to represent a concept, action, instruction, or object. It considers how we recognize symbols and how they are used: in symbol sets and to present data.