The surprising history of emojis | Webdesigner Depot

Emojis are tiny graphic images that are able to accurately represent an array of human emotions, it is even suggested that emojis are sometimes worth more than a hundred words. Emojis are usually shown to be a circular yellow face with a pair of black eyes and a mouth, and depending on what particular emoji it is, it may also be wearing a certain kind of facial expression. It can also be gestures which are used to represent actions or feelings such as the hand emoji which means stop or simply a high five.

Emoticons vs Emojis

Emojis should not be mistaken for emoticons. Emoticons are punctuation marks, letters, and numbers used to create pictorial icons that generally display an emotion or sentiment, whereas emojis are tiny graphic images that follow a coding standard called Unicode, which means that you will most likely be able to read an emoji the way it was meant to read, no matter what device you are using. Lately, emojis have become very significant in this modern age, and their popularity has skyrocketed over the recent years. But where did emojis come from exactly? Who was the brilliant mind who had thought of all of this?

The first emoji

The first emojis were created in 1999 by Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita. At that time, Shigetaka Kurita was an engineer at the Japanese phone company, NTT Docomo, and was part of the development team for “i-mode,” an early mobile internet platform. He wanted to create an attractive interface to relay data in a simple, concise manner, and the result of his efforts was the creation of 176 icons which he named “emoji”. The name is a combination of two Japanese words, which were “e” (picture) and “moji” (character). Kurita admits he had taken inspiration from anime, Chinese characters, and foreign signs of bathrooms for the design of his emojis. Kurita’s emojis prioritized symbols, objects, and characters over faces because the goal of NTT Docomo, the company he was working for, was to find new ways for knowledge to be conveyed. Characters representing body parts (heart, ears, hands), buildings (hospitals, schools, banks), technology (cameras, microphones), and all of the stages of the moon were included in Kurita’s emojis. Through the use of Kurita’s emojis, it was then possible to add an emotional subtext to a bland text message. Gone were days of misinterpreting the meaning of certain messages because it was hard to tell the context of it.

Evolution of Emojis

Emoji quickly became popular in Japan, and also to the rest of the world. In 2007, Google wanted to grow their presence in Japan and in Asia, so they decided to incorporate emoji into Gmail. On the initiative, Google collaborated with KDDI AU, and also implemented a standardized set of code points for each emoji. Since computers essentially operate with numbers, each letter or character that you type on a computer is “encoded” by a numerical code. Unicode concentrated on standardizing these language codes so that the letters you typed were correctly displayed across different platforms and across different devices in different languages. Emojis were formally adopted into the Unicode Standard on October 12, 2010, with most emoji characters assigned to a dedicated emoji block. Every major release of Unicode includes new characters and emoji.


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