Hello Old Friend 👋
Re-emerging from the Covid hiatus, the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee is back! 👁️📝👁️
Remember April 2020? We were so innocent back then. Schools shut down temporarily. Masks were suggested but not mandatory. Elbow bumping was a thing for a hot second until we realized touching anyone or anything unnecessarily was not a big-brain idea.
During this time it seems as if we’ve all picked up new habits, hobbies, and coping mechanisms. Even the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee (ESC) paused reviewing emoji submissions … but did not stop emoji-ing (Did I just verb “emoji?” YES I DID.) In an effort to prioritize globally relevant emoji, the Subcommittee spent their lock down video chatting with experts to develop a process that more completely reflects their criteria for inclusion.
When there are as many foods as there are ingredients in the world, as many genders as there are people on the planet, and a variety of objects only limited by your imagination, every addition to the emoji palette is at risk of creating zones of exclusion without consciously trying.
In some ways emoji were not intended to be for everyone. They were an innovation of Japan, for people in Japan and exclusive to Japanese phone carriers — that’s why we have very culturally specific items like 👘 (Kimono) 🎍 (Pine decoration) 🎏 (Carp Streamer) among others.
Reconciling emoji’s origins with where they are now — a world wide phenomenon with a life of its own — is delicate. Everyone wants emoji to be "mine" when the truth is, they're not. They're everyone's but also no one's. 🥴 92% of the world’s online population use emoji but what percentage of the world feels their identity is completely reflected in emoji? Emoji can’t reproduce reality but they can supplement it. That’s the beauty of language and illustration!
Should emoji be globally relevant or culturally specific? If they are for everyone they should be as broad as possible. If they are intended for a specific group of people then perhaps emoji shouldn’t be deployed on everyone’s keyboards. Like, what if the emoji selection for Hebrew keyboards were different than the emoji for Portuguese speakers, which would be different than the emoji found on Chinese keyboards … ? Nearly every culture has some form of dumpling but they all look radically different. As we lay the technical groundwork and strategy these kinds of questions merit consideration. For now emoji are intended to be for everyone which means encoding concepts that are as flexible as possible.
A Short FAQ Intermission
Q: Can we get X emoji by next month?
⌛Sorry, no can do. It can take up to two years from conception and proposal to landing on your phone.
Q: How do I propose an emoji?
👩🏫 Tip: Don’t skip any of the fields in the form! They all help the ESC evaluate the emoji, and they get a lot of submissions!
We want your proposal to be the best it can be. I recommend being faithful to the criteria for inclusion as much as possible and to consult the Emoji Subcommittee’s priorities, guidelines, strategies, and audits.
Criteria for writing a proposal
Does the candidate emoji have notable metaphorical references or symbolism and not merely represent itself?
Use in sequences
How is the emoji used with other emoji to convey something new?
Breaking new ground
Does the emoji represent something that is not already representable?
Explain how and why this emoji represents a distinct, visually iconic entity Perhaps, the people of Argentina see “mate” but folks unfamiliar with the drink on the other side of the world understand it to be “coconut drink.” Iconic for different reasons that suit a global audience.
Are these needed for compatibility with frequently-used emoji in popular existing systems, such as WeChat, Twitter, etc.
Frequency of Use
Is there a high frequency of use? There should be high usage worldwide.
Does the proposed emoji fill a gap in existing types of emoji? For example, five emoji were added to Unicode 8.0 to complete the zodiac, including scorpion.
And finally, if your proposal is not advanced I know it will come as a disappointment. 💕 Your proposal may have not been successful but you are still amazing! There are loads of reasons why proposals are declined:
➕ It can already be represented by a sequence. Ex. Garbage fire 🗑️🔥)
🔍 It’s too specific. We can’t add every type of flower, every breed of dog, every color of drink
💰 Very few are selected. Roughly thirty are added a year
🐣 It's a transient concept. Think less “memes” and more “stable long-standing concepts”
❌ Many other factors for exclusion
Reconciling the rapid, transient nature of modern communication with the formal, methodical process required by a standards body like the Unicode Consortium is the name of the game these days. Until the sending and receiving of images is standardized in some manner so you can send any image in the world alongside your text messages not just code points …. well, Unicode is here for the world’s emoji related needs. 🫂💖