Humans are complex. We want to be seen, heard, recognized, understood and yet … we also crave anonymity. To be left alone. Lost in a crowd. One of many. Don’t look at me. Introducing, Dotted Line Face, a new emoji that embraces this tension of the human condition, landing on your device of choice via Unicode's Emoji 14.0 release.
Dotted Line is one of a couple new face emoji that play with metaphor— an exciting development for your keyboard. Another smiley that distorts the traditional yellow circle is Melting Face. They are both great examples of how contextual clues can convey emotion just as effectively as the tilt of an eyebrow or pursing of lips.
Why a dotted line? ✁- - - - - - - -
A marker of a good emoji is when someone looks at it and feels like they’ve seen it before —or something like it. Emoji that are iconic, well established concepts frequently bubble to the top of the frequently used list. But, illustrating the absence of something is incredibly tricky. What's an Emoji Subcommittee to do?
When exploring how to articulate that transitional space between “here” and “not here” we looked at a number of visual morphemes like fades and transparencies; however, these kinds of effects are not as conventionally understood and are not terribly legible at emoji size. The use of dotted lines is a common technique with a myriad of applications as noted by artist Garry Barker who has written extensively about the use of dotted line in maps, graphics, paintings, embroidery, and comics and the many varied ways they are executed.
What's particularly interesting is how this emoji inverts the intents of other emoji which explicitly show substantial content. Any sense of absence or “fill-in-the-blank” —which by nature is the lack of substance—cannot be conveyed by other emoji that have some “substance” depicted in it. While disguised face emoji (🥸) is appropriate for when you wish you were someone else, invisible face emoji is employed when you want to just disappear. Similarly, the existing person-in-business-suit-levitating emoji (🕴️) can be used to convey being in disguise not feeling overlooked.
From Invisible Illness to ✁- - - - - - - -
Ok, so dotted lines are an established visual trope and can convey a broad range of feelings to the broadest possible range of people. Many of which are currently unrepresented in Unicode:
Introversion “Too many required social activities for me”
Feeling Overlooked/left out “I literally said that exact same thing”
Isolation and spending time alone “I’m gonna stay in-tonight”
Losing Face “He got owned so bad he’s not gonna log-on for awhile”
Invisible illness “No one has any idea what I'm dealing with)
Dotted Line Face is also super when combined with other emoji!!! Finally, a decent way to evoke a whispering tone of voice (dotted word balloons indicate whispering), depression, absence, or erasure.
Well that was embarrassing (cue Homer Simpson gif)
Can you keep a secret?
They never messaged be back…
I can’t believe that happened …
Lost in a crowd
It’s not even an emoji yet and it’s getting the meme treatment.
Try to look away, dotted line face is staring right back at you … begging not to be seen.