Have you ever wondered where the little pictures on your the keyboard of your mobile device come from? Have you ever considered that they might be able to convey emotion differently than plain text? A lot of thought went into the creation of Emoji and it has taken mobile communication by storm.

What is Emoji?

Emoji (e·mo·ji / ēˈmōjē)- a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication.

Emoji is fairly new in the United States with manufactures like Apple and Samsung (introduced around 2011). However, the history of Emoji goes back much further. We have seen a wave of the funny little icons and they are beginning to be used in very creative ways.

Where was Emoji invented?

Have you ever wondered why you see some Emoji that tend to be specific to Japanese culture (bowing businessman, a face wearing a face mask, ramen noodles, dango, onigiri, Japanese curry, and sushi)? It is because Emoji was created in Japan!

Who invented Emoji?

Shigetaka Kurita worked with Docomo (Japanese mobile communication service) on their i-mode project and is credited with inventing Emoji’s (1998). i-mode is known to be the world’s first widespread mobile internet platform with basic features (weather, entertainment, news, and e-mail).4

Where did the inspiration of Emoji come from?

○ In the mid 90’s pager use in Japan boomed among the teenage population. The ability to add a heart symbol to some devices let kids convey a sentiment in a different way.1 The positive reception to this concept would be carried along throughout the development process.

○ With the launch of Windows 95, new communication methods began to take off in Japan and it was not easy for the population to adjust to the new methods. Written communication in Japan can be long and wordy in order to convey the emotions (such as an expression of goodwill intent within a greeting). Electronic communication tended to be shorter, making it much harder for the recipient to receive the communication with the emotion that was intended. The concept of Emoji (mainly the use of facial expressions) would allow people to help adjust to a new age of communication.1

○ Kurita looked for symbols that readily conveyed thoughts or emotions while avoiding inspiring strong likes or dislikes.2

○ Docomo needed a consumer based application to balance their business application focus. A simple solution needed to be developed in order for communication infrastructure to function smoothly. A single character image was needed to avoid the over zealous use of picture messaging. The original design called for 176 12×12 pixel images to represent a vast array of human emotion.2

When was Emoji rolled out?

○ The project was completed by Docomo and launched in 1999.

○ In 2005 three Japanese carriers began to standardize use of Emoji. Up until then usage and compatibility carried among carrier to career and device to device. Signals could finally be sent and received across carriers and the incoming signals would be interpreted by each devices character sets.4 Throughout the time since, different carriers have designed their character sets to resemble the standardized library created by Kurita.

○ In 2009 Google added Emoji compatibility to G-Mail.

○ Unicode, one of the worlds most standardized system for writing and characters added Emoji in 2010.

○ Apple debuted Emoji in the United States among its devices in 2011.

What are some unique uses of Emoji?

LinkMoji allows you to translate text links into links with Emoji!

Narratives in Emoji is exactly what it sounds like… From Les Miserables, to personal narratives, to TV shows, check them all out translated into Emoji!

○ View art history in a different way through Emoji Art History!

Emoji Dick! The tale of Moby Dick translated through Emoji.

Emoji One is an open-source Emoji design website.

Well there you have it!

A brief history of Emoji and look at how it has taken communication by storm. Side note: Professor Scott Fahlman is credited with the first use of the emoticon, but we can save this for another article! :)

1 The Verge- How Emoji Conquered…
2 NPR- Why 40 Characters…
3 Business Insider- Emoji Timeline…
4 Gizmodo- A Brief History

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