History of emoticons: where they come from and who designs them today


The man who invented emoji changed profession more than 10 years ago; Do you know who designs the beloved emoticons we use to express ourselves today?

The first emojis arrived in Japan in 1999 from the hand of Shigetaka Kurita, the inventor of the emoticons. Today they are an international phenomenon, so much so that some of the symbols have been chosen as “word of the year” by the Oxford dictionary in the past.

first emoji
Some of the first Japanese emoji. Via | KeitaMail for Android

But how did it all begin? In the mid-1990s bars, known as Pocket Bells, were very popular among young people mainly because they had a heart symbol. NTT DoCoMo, a company in which Kurita worked, took a new version of these devices and removed the heart. The impact was brutal, and not very positive: young people complained and went to other companies that sold Pocket Bells and still retain the symbol.

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The popularity of symbols in text messaging was undeniable, and Kurita knew it. He presented his idea to large companies such as Fujitsu and Panasonic but was told to design them himself. Kurita had no experience as a designer, but drawing inspiration from comic books from his childhood, he managed to come up with 176 symbols.

Initially, the emoticons could only be visualized in Japanese mobile, and Kurita did not imagine that the symbols would reach to such popularity and recognition at international level, becoming the language of the network. That yes, recognizes that its universal character allows them to overcome the barriers of language.

Kurita left the world of emoji more than 10 years ago, and nowadays rarely think of the famous symbols he invented. However, as he confessed in an interview with The Guardian, he still has some weakness for his favorite emoticon: the heart.

How do you create today’s emoticons?

To solve the compatibility problem, the emoticons were included in the Unicode encoding standard, allowing the symbols to work on any phone. In 2010 they were included in the Unicode version 6.0, and today version 10.0 already exists.

Behind each emoji is a numeric code – much less endearing than the symbols that appear on the screen. The value of each emoticon is defined in the Unicode encoding standard, which now includes more than 110,000 characters. For example, the famous face that cries has the value U + 1F602.

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The approval of the emojis is regulated by the Unicode Consortium, in which are companies like Apple, Adobe, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Yahoo.

This is not to say that all emoticons are the same, in fact, they differ in design. Unicode provides a description for each symbol, which is the value. It is the responsibility of each company to customize their emoticons as they see fit.

You can find the table with all the emotions, along with its code, description and different designs here.

Screenshot of the smileys table created by Tim Whitlock.

You can also propose an emoji

Unicode explains that anyone can propose an emoticon, however, you have to follow some fairly strict rules. You can find all the information about the process to propose an emoji here.

It need not be a completely new symbol. You should make sure that it does not already appear in the list of existing emoji, but if you miss a symbol, such as a flag, a type of food or an animal, you can propose to include it.

Via | Mashable

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