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The International Symbol Of Real-Time Text

Author: Mark Rejhon, in collaboration with R3TF

The Challenge

It is the very early years of marketing "Real-Time Text" to the mainstream. AOL Instant Messenger now has a "Real-Time IM" mode, but it is hidden in a menu, and unfamiliar to many users. There is also the RealJabber chat software that utilize the new XMPP extension protocol XEP-0301 that is compatible with Jabber and Google Talk networks. There are SIP softphones, terminals, mobiles and services using IETF RFC 4103 for real-time text together with other media. So far, the use has mainly been in the accessibility area. However, real-time text is gradually becoming a feature in mass-market software, such as instant messaging applications. In the next several years, real-time text may eventually become a standard feature of next-generation text-messaging networks. How do we market real-time text effectively?


Example standard logos for TTY and for Closed Captions

There are standardized icons and symbols for other text technologies, including the international symbol for TDD/TTY, and television closed-captioning. Traditional assistive devices such as TDD/TTY's are gradually becoming obsolete, being replaced by mobile phones and instant messaging. Therefore, a standard symbol will eventually become necessary for replacement accessible technologies, including real-time text.

Simple Solution proposes the following solution
for all parties and vendors to explain real-time text to the mass-market:

  1. Simple ​standard symbol.
  2. Simple name: "Fast Text"
  3. Simple description: "Text transmitted instantly while it is being typed."

A Simple Standard Symbol

The standard symbol for real-time text shall be the italicized "T" in motion:

Standard symbol for Real-Time Text

This symbol is designed to successfully meet several criteria:

  • Very simple: It can be used at small sizes.
  • Text-focused: It indicates a text-based technology.
  • Attractive graphic: People like things that appears fast.
  • Suggestive: It shows fast moving text.
  • Recognizable: It is quick to associate and understand.
  • Has precedent: Typographic symbols are used for text technologies (i.e. font buttons).
  • All purpose: It can be used as a symbol, as an icon, and as a logo.
  • Language-neutral: It is easily understood globally.

A Simple Name

The simple name "Fast Text" shall be a short attractive name for real-time text:

  • Attractive: It conveys the idea of a good text messaging feature.
  • Descriptive: Text is delivered sooner, read more quickly, and replied-to more quickly.
  • Minimum explanation: It requires only a simple further description.
  • Translation is simple: The words are common.
  • Mass-market friendly: It goes beyond the assistive/deaf market.
  • Advertising friendly: It is easy to advertise.
  • Feature name friendly: It is a clear feature name for computer software and mobile apps.

The recommended style is "Fast Text" in italics where feasible:

  • Phrase as a single noun: It highlights the two words together.
  • Usage of italics: It suggests speed and precision.
  • Usage of capitalization: It preserves the phrase, as either "Fast Text" or "FAST TEXT

Italics are lost when copy & pasted as plain text, while capitalization is preserved. This can be important when people do social networking including Twitter and Facebook. Also, non-italics text may be used for menus and text-only buttons.

A Simple Description

A long description of real-time text is found at and Wikipedia.
This shall be the recommended short description:

"Text transmitted instantly while it is being typed."

A short description is necessary in many situations:

  • Easier to build into software: Short descriptions are more easily embedded in applications.
  • Attractive: It is easier to market a short description.
  • Less confusing: More users will try it out if it makes more sense.
  • Easy to figure out: Any remaining confusion will disappear when they try it out.

Minor variants may be used depending on context, as required:

  • Real-Time Text (RTT): Text that is transmitted instantly while it is being typed.  (for glossaries)
  • FAST TEXT: Text transmitted instantly while you type.  (for glossaries and marketing)
  • Text transmitted instantly while it is being typed.  (caption for an animated image graphic)
  • Enable Fast Text: Transmit your text instantly while you type.  (pop-up balloon for an app feature)

A longer description may be used within detailed introductions and examples:

  • Real-time text is text transmitted instantly while it is being typed or created. The recipient can immediately read the sender's text as it is written, without waiting. It combines the advantages of text-based messaging, with the interactive conversational nature of a telephone conversation.

Download Standard Symbol Graphics

This standard symbol  is currently available for download in several formats:
Mobile Icons: 16x16, 16x16 outlined
Standard PNG: 32x3250x50100x100200x200150x150 outlined300x300 outlined
Large PNG: 3000x3000 outlined

    Standard symbol for Real-Time Text Standard symbol for Real-Time TextStandard symbol for Real-Time TextStandard symbol for Real-Time TextStandard symbol for Real-Time Text

Translation into Other Languages

Localization of the name of the technology, "Real-Time Text" or "Fast Text" into a different language should ideally be done using a short phrase that does not conflict with existing usage. A suggested example is "texte rapide" in French. As time progresses, localized standards for naming will be established. Care shall be taken that the translation does not conflict with other meanings and trademarks/copyrights that are used within a specific region.

Non-Typographic Symbols

International standards for graphical symbols such as ISO 7001 advocate the use of non-text symbols (i.e. wheel chair symbol) for maximum world-wide use. Extensive discussion made within the Real Time Text Foundation (R3TF) found several issues with non-text symbols for describing real-time text.

  • Text-based technologies are notoriously difficult to describe using non-text symbols;
  • Stylized non-text symbols such as cheetah, rabbit, rocket, etc, do not conjure the thought of "fast text";
  • The vast majority of the world's computer keyboards have a "T" key, including Arabic, Russian, and Chinese keyboards;
  • Even to this date, font icons for bold, italics and underline all use a typographic symbol, even internationally;
  • Sending text requires literacy, and most literate users recognize the letter "T" as a text character, even internationally.

Real-Time Text Taskforce (R3TF) has agreed that it acceptable to use a typographic symbol to describe a text-based technology.

Alternative Symbol

In the long term, it may or may not become necessary to develop a second alternative non-typographic symbol for certain regions, even if it is not as clear in the most common regions. This is a special case where a typographical symbol provides maximum clarity on a world-wide basis.

Total Conversation and Instant Messaging Clients

Total Conversation describes the simultaneous combination of audio, video, and real-time text. 

Many popular instant messaging programs already support audio and video, and only need the addition of real-time text in order to comply with ITU-T recommendation F.703. Audio and video is already easy to explain to users. This document simplifies the marketing of the addition of the real-time text feature to existing instant messaging clients.

Many instant messaging clients have audio and video turned off by default. Therefore, the standard symbol for real-time text may become an additional button next to existing audio/video buttons. For software that has real-time text turned off by default, it is important to show the symbol button prominently. Software should not hide the "real-time text" feature or "Fast Text" feature inside a hidden menu.

For more information, see Total Conversation on this website. Total Conversation is also mentioned in ITU-T SG 16 Work on Accessibility, used in the REACH112 trials, and is standardized in 3GPP and IETF standards documents. Therefore, it is important to have a simple method of marketing real-time text, when existing instant messaging software become "Total Conversation" capable.


Any party may use the "Fast Text" simple name, description, and symbol for the purpose of any real-time text technology for any use (including commercial, non-commercial, governmental, educational and other uses). Credit is given to - The Fast Text​ symbol is released in the public domain.


Fast Text Symbol
The ​=T symbol is designed by Mark Rejhon and released into the public domain.
The Rockwell font is used for the =T symbol. Additional graphics formats and sizes can be obtained upon request.
Closed Captioning Symbol
Developed by WGBH, and released into the public domain.
International TTY Symbol
2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, section 703.7.2.2