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How new emojis are born (and how to propose your own)

How new emojis are born (and how to propose your own)

How did Emoji start?

Most people believe that emoji (sometimes pluralized as «emojis») are a recent invention, but they come back a lot. The idea of ​​individual characters representing faces or objects dates back to the late 1990s to early 2000s in Japan, where mobile phones included smiling faces and icons directly in the font. Before that, people used emoticons like «:-)» or «^ _ ^» that use symbols to create faces.

However, emoji as a method of official and universal communication began in 2010. Then emoji were added to Unicode, the global standard for encoding and text in computer systems. The Unicode consortium, the body responsible for maintaining Unicode, has accepted a proposal from a team of Google and Apple engineers to standardize these expressive characters.

Since then, emojis have become a phenomenon of pop culture and a universal form of communication. In 2015, the Oxford Dictionary declared emoji «the face with tears of joy» (😂) as the word of the year.

How do I make one?

The Unicode consortium has established a rigorous process for adding new emojis to Unicode. Every year, the Unicode Consortium hears proposals for new emojis. After a full screening, the best proposals will be approved, turned into emojis and published to the public.

Because the submission process is public, literally anyone in the world can create an emoji. In 2019, Jay Peters from The Verge published an article about his experiences coming up with two emojis: the gaping face and the waffle. Since then, both have been implemented in Unicode and are standard in most messaging applications and operating systems.

He comes up with an emoji idea

Before you start brainstorming, you need to check that your idea has already been submitted. The Unicode consortium maintains a list updated all emoji requests. This sheet contains both successful and rejected proposals, as well as the reasons why they were rejected. Although your idea has already been submitted, this is not an automatic disqualification, there is a chance that your proposal was recently approved by someone else’s idea.

Discovering a concept for your proposal is not as simple as creating an icon for something that has not yet been turned into an emoji. The Unicode consortium has a set of factor from selection I use it to assess whether a proposal is worth turning into a real emoji.

The consortium divides them into two: inclusion factors and exclusion factors. These are the considerations for inclusion:

  1. Compatibility: Is emoji already widely used on other social platforms? If so, the chances of being in Unicode increase.
  2. Expected level of use: How much will the proposed emojis be used? There are several measures that can be used as a test of the probable level of use. These include the frequency of use, the possibility of multiple uses, the ability to use it in succession with other emojis, and whether or not it opens up new ground.
  3. Distinction: Potential emojis must have a distinct image that can be recognized in emoji format.
  4. Integrity: the emoji must fill a space in the current emoji library.

On the other hand, some of the exclusion factors include the presence of requests and repeated requests, being too specific or not specific enough and the possibility that this is a way. All this can make your proposal a weak candidate to become an emoji.

Submission of the proposal

Fire emoji

Once you’ve found a great idea that covers the selection factors, it’s time to make a proposal. The Unicode consortium has specific guidelines about how to write your proposal. Yours should have the following:

  • ID: the name of your emoji, such as ‘Party Emoji’ or ‘Rotating Eye Face Emoji’.
  • Images: Display images with your emoji proposal in both color and black and white.
  • Sort location: in which category your emoji would include, such as «Emoticons and people» or «Food and drink».
  • Selection factors: A breakdown of each of the inclusion and exclusion selection factors mentioned above.

For all selection factors, you need to be able to provide substantial evidence and ideas. This is especially true when you need to send Google Trends screenshots and Google Image Trends results.

If you need more help, all previous successful emoji proposals are stored in Unicode site. You can consult them for inspiration or ideas to improve your proposal.

Once you have finished creating the document, you need to send it to the Unicode Consortium. Have instructions about where and how to email your proposal, as well as the file type and format requirements. Please review them to prevent them from rejecting your emojis.

Approve and implement emojis

Depending on when you send your emojis, it can be a very long process. There are three steps in the approval process before your emoji becomes standard in Unicode:

  1. Initial proposal: During this time, a Unicode Emoji Subcommittee (ESC) reviews all versions and submits them to the Unicode or UTC Technical Committee for approval.
  2. UTC consideration: The whole committee then reviews the filtered set of ESC proposals. Accepted proposals become «provisional candidates». In the second quarter of each year, some provisional candidates become «candidate projects».
  3. Final approval: one Once Unicode finally decides to implement the emoji, it becomes the «final candidate». These are then sent to technology companies so they can create models. Then they are published in Unicode and the applications start to support it.

All in all, it can take more than a year from the initial introduction before you can use your emojis in WhatsApp or iMessage. However, it is a short time since you will leave a mark on the whole world.

If your emoji is chosen for inclusion, it will reach all modern devices that support emojis in the world: iPhone, Android phones, Windows PCs, Mac and even Linux PCs.

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