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The Emoji That Brings Us Together, Keeps Us Together ?

July 17, 2019

It’s easy to dismiss the sophistication of the emoji. 

Emojis are firmly embedded in our digital language and even show up IRL in Halloween costumes. As communications professionals, we should be in awe of something that crosses cultures, mediums and language with ease. So on this World Emoji Day, let’s step back and consider the emoji in its proper context as an international ? builder.

But first, a bit of history. As most of our cultural trends here in the states, emojis were birthed in Japan and originally came in the form of an emoji-only keyboard, only available to Apple users in Japan. Only after iPhone users in the US downloaded the Japanese keyboard en mass did Apple make it an international standard. In 2010, emojis were finally adopted into the international coding standard called Unicode and universally available on both Apple and Android operating systems. 

Today the process for proposing an emoji is simple and accessible to anyone. Unicode Consortium, a non-profit international organization responsible for making sure people around the world can use a computer in any language, approves every new emoji. Anyone can submit a proposal to the consortium—yes, even you— with a bit of rationale for why it should be added. For example, Courtney Milan is a historical romance author and is responsible for our ? emoji. She documented the approval process and her rationale was as follows: (Emphasis added for dramatic effect!)

“The current selection of emoji animals is missing a vital portion of natural species. While there are alligators, koalas, mice, snakes, whales and dragons, utterly missing from the emoji pantheon are any extinct creatures. Specifically, none of the prehistoric dinosaurs that have captured the human imagination and become a part of our global culture are present. This proposal details a set of Jurassic emojis to fix this situation once and for all.”

But not to be outdone, brands, celebrities, and organizations are a regular contributor to the emoji submissions. Kit Kat proposed that a breaking candy be added, Tony Hawk helped the consortium design a more accurate board and Google asked for more professional emojis to be added to help reduce gender restrictions. 

This year 230 new emojis are being added to the list, and while there are many simple new additions like the flamingo, the theme for the year is clearly representation and inclusiveness. 

While new emojis offer new opportunities for brands to speak to universally relevant topics of inclusiveness, it’s important to always keep the tone in mind. The best examples from brands are when there’s a natural fit and the use of the emoji doesn’t feel forced. Emojis are fine for most light and playful posts. We wouldn’t advise brands to use emojis for complex or solemn topics as it might come across as inappropriate and tone-deaf.

Emojis are important because, in a world where we are increasingly aware of what divides us, they remind us of the experiences we share. They remind us of things that we know so inherently that we can look at a picture and know what is being communicated no matter where you live. 

To celebrate this year’s World Emoji Day, let’s all join together to think of communication in more universal terms and appreciate the emoji for what it is. The world’s first universal language. 

Our most basic common ? is that we all ? ➡️ ?. We all ? the same ?. We all ❤️ our ? future. And we are all ?

– John F. Kennedy