Photo of a screen with emoji

Officially Submit Your Emoji Idea…And More On the Beloved Digital Icons

Did you know there are around 3,460 official emojis? 😮 That’s the count for ones officially blessed by the Unicode Consortium, arbiter for the representation of text in all modern software products and standards. They provide the code a computer will use to refer to the right emoji. They provide the description. They provide the keywords. They even provide a visual sample. And then every software vendor out there that supports emojis can do their own artistic take on what the emojis should look like on their platform. (Some software vendors may also offer emojis unique to their platforms; the dancing parrot on Slack comes to mind.)

Before There’s an Emoji

OK, so lots of official emojis, more being added all the time…but there has to be more to it than that, right? Oh yes, yes indeed. It’s like a breakdancing contest 🕺where people are introducing new moves all the time, hoping it becomes a Thing.

Analogy aside, though, there is an official process for how an emoji becomes an emoji. The short, short version is that it starts with an Emoji Proposal to the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee. Anyone can submit a proposal, but there are rules. Lots of rules. For example:

  • You can only submit something between 📅 April 4 through July 31 📅 of any given year.
  • You need to verify 🔎that someone else didn’t propose the same thing.
  • You need to understand 🤓 the gory details regarding the limitations of what can be an emoji. 
  • You need to follow a specific format 📜 for submission.
  • You need to include a sample image in a specific file format, of a specific size, with specific variations.

And so on and so on and so on. 

Emojis and Diversity

Emojis reflect how we communicate via writing. The very first emoji came about in 1997 and was a graphical representation of emoticons (think: creative use of punctuation to create smiles, frowns, shrugs… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), which were themselves first used (or so the story goes) in 1982. Hundreds and thousands of emojis later, skin tones that reflect the diversity of the world were added as an official modifier in 2015. There are still debates as to whether that’s enough, and it’s really bizarre where the skin tones came from in the first place. They came from work done in the 1970’s by a gent named Thomas Fitzpatrick, who was studying how skin burns in the sun and came up with a list. Now, why there are five skin types defined by the Unicode Consortium and six skin types defined by this Fitzpatrick fellow, I have no idea.  

Getting Geeky with Emojis

I’ll be honest: I generally can crank out a blog post in an hour or so. But not this series! It was way too much fun to dive into the rabbit hole to see all the different emojis, read the descriptions written by very geeky people, and learn about how a seemingly-innocuous emoji that I use every day does not always mean what I think it means! (‘OK’ 👌 symbol, I’m looking at you!). I’m sure you want see what is in this 🐇 hole with me, so here are a few links for you to follow:

Wrap Up

While there are over 3000 official emojis available (not including all the skin tone variations), not all platforms support all emojis. “Pregnant Person” , for example, is really hard to find. “Pregnant Woman” and “Pregnant Man” , no problem. The decision on which emojis to include is entirely up to the software vendor, and it is a combination of user demand, software brand, and cultural expectations that drive the decisions. There are probably still MORE than enough emojis out there for you to tell your story, but stay tuned…more will almost certainly become available over time.

Photo by Domingo Alvarez E on Unsplash

Posted by heather

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