If you are a millennial, you were probably born with the emoji already. But for all the rest of us, there was a long, dark time of the Internet, when we needed to communicate with full words and create actual sentences. Thank God, one guy had a brilliant idea, to create small pictures that can express feelings, desires, objects, establishing a kind of universal visual language. His name is Shigetaka Kurita.
He is a Japanese graphic designer who developed the emoji back in 1999 for the local mobile operator – DoCoMo. In the late 90s, the Japanese people were crazy about writing messages to each other (SMS), and the Internet was just starting to gain popularity on the mobile devices. DoCoMo formed a team, led by mister Kurita. He needed to create the first mobile Internet platform of the company in an efficient way that uses less data.
Shigetata was up for the challenge. He sought inspiration all around him. He saw that people in the weather forecast simply put a cloud with drops and everybody understood it would be raining there. In the manga (Japanese style of comic books), they used (and still do) symbols for expressing emotions. He also examined the Japanese and Chinese written languages, where a symbol can mean an entire word.
In the end, he created the first set of emoji – 178 of them. They were small images, formed by 12 by 12 pixels. Far away from the crisp images that you use now on your phone.
So DoCoMo released the first set of emoji that were copied by the rest of the operators there. From 1999, the emoji slowy started going viral worldwide. The penetration was slow until 2007 when Apple included them in their latest iPhone. It was the Renaissance of mobile messaging. This time instead of SMS, it was all about apps.
Now all of us use them all the time. To say hi, to laugh, to bother someone, to awkwardly ask a girl out or just to express our current state of mind.
Every day we move one step closer to creating a whole new international language of symbols that eliminates the borders of the common languages. In 1999 there were 178 emoji, today there are more than 2823 (*emojipedia.org, June 2018). Some emoji aren’t what they seem at first glance. They don’t have a literal meaning. For instance, the camera emoji represents sending a picture. The car emoji means you will be traveling somewhere. As for the eggplant emoji… Let’s just say it does NOT mean an eggplant and leave it like that.
There are plenty of combinations too. So in 20 more years, the emoji could reach a number, close to an international language.
Do you think we went too far with them or do you want to see more as quickly as possible?