Typographical Art

If you don’t count hieroglyphics…our story begins in the late nineties. We were jamming out to the Goo Goo Dolls and Taco Bell told us to “Think outside the bun.”

In 1998, Shigetaka Kurita, a 25-year-old Japanese engineer, wanted to develop a way to communicate, while taking up less digital space. Kurita named these 12×12 pixel images, emoji. Contrary to what you might think, emoji does not come from the word “emotion,’ but rather from the “Japanese 絵 (‘e,’ picture), 文 (‘mo,’ write) and 字 (‘ji,’ character).” 

Kurita's emoji library
Kurita’s Emoji
Image from MoMA

Emoji stayed mainly in Japan for over two decades, until they were introduced through Unicode, the international encoding standard. However, their popularity can be largely attributed to a little company you may know by the name of Apple.

Emojis are getting more realistic and detailed with each release. I mean, take a look at that camel from 2008…🤔

Two-Hump Camel emoji from 2008 to 2018
Exhibit A: Two-Hump Camel
Image from Emojipedia

But more importantly, as society learns to embrace diversity, emoji has followed suit. Variations of skin tones, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicity, and disabilities has helped bring the current number of emoji to nearly 3,000! 


Word of the year

In 2015, for the first time in history, Oxford Dictionaries, named an emoji Word of the Year. The honor was given to the “Face with Tears of Joy,” as it “best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015.”  I married in 2015, and 😂 is definitely the emoji that best illustrates the dance moves at my wedding reception.

Although emojis have become an integral part of modern communication, I don’t think we have to worry about the written word going extinct any time soon. For starters, they do not compare in complexity.


However, the question is whether or not emoji will become the new global language? For example, we may not know “car” in 20 languages, but we all know what a “🚗” is…

Image from Giphy

With over 90% of the population using them on a regular basis, over time, emojis will provide significant insight to not only our personalities, but our ability to communicate regardless of the country we live in or the language(s) we speak. And for that, I say, 👌.

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