The Emoji: an ideogram

Speaking in emoji is something we are all familiar with and I often wonder how on earth I managed to express myself before its invention.

Labelled as the Father of the Emoji, Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese designer, created a collection of cell phone emoji in 1999. Its main purpose was to create a quick and easy way to communicate within a programme that limited users to up to 250 characters.

Fast forward to the present day and emoji, not to be confused with emoticons, has become a worldwide phenomenon, used by people of all ages on a variety of devices and platforms. It even has its own awareness day #WorldEmojiDay.

So, why is there such a universal love for emojis? For me, my little phone friends seem to know my personality so well. They know when I’m roaring with laughter, confused, anxious and even sick. They can convey my feelings so much better than what I could type into any message.

There seems to be more to it than that though…something even exciting perhaps, like when you get a handwritten letter arrive in the post.

It’s no surprise then that quite a lot of research is given to the emoji. The journal ‘Trends in Cognitive Sciences’ reported that a team of psychologists believe as daily interactions become more digital, scientists will benefit from studying the emoji further. Apparently, they have the ability to give us the same satisfaction in our communications digitally as we would have in person.

Linda Kaye, a senior lecturer in psychology said: “Different regions of the brain light up when you’re looking at emojis compared to not looking at emojis. It’s how you emotionally express.”

An emoji also has the power to completely change the tone of a conversation, quickly and easily. The two examples below show this perfectly and the person seeing these messages would most probably respond to the first one with sensitivity, but the second with humour.

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Emojis also provide speed and convenience, and in our fast-paced world of digital communication an emoji can quickly convey a sentence in a second. A quick thumbs up, a burger and fries for dinner, a kiss or a very confused face.

They have been known to cause confusion though, especially when conveyed in different ways. ‘Why are you praying for me?’…’I’m not, I’m saying thank you.’ Or, ‘Am I boring you?’… ‘No, it’s a crying face!’ Due to the non-verbal nature of emojis, it’s inevitable that on occasions there will be confusion as to why a certain emoji may have been used inappropriately.

But don’t fret, Emojipedia is available for all your emoji search engine needs and to sort out any kind of office/family/friends emoji feud!

With all we know about the power of the emoji, it’s no wonder brands are harnessing this to their advantage to connect with consumers. Domino’s decided to enable a system where customers could order pizza using a single pizza emoji. Before going viral it was reported that just during the first day more than 500 people across the US used the emoji ordering system.

The WWF created 17 emojis of endangered animals and encouraged users to donate 10p every time they tweeted one. It resulted in 559,000 mentions and more than 59,000 signups in the first three months.


Emojis are even being used to boost social media engagement organically and through paid advertising. Quintly reported that using emojis on Instagram increases engagement by 48%. It’s a way to establish a human connection with an audience and portray a more genuine and approachable side.

The future of emoji

 In 2010, emoji was added to Unicode, the computing industry standard for software writing. Its latest upgrade was recently announced, with new emojis including a guide dog, waffle, sloth and yawning face coming to our screens soon.

In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries crowned the ‘Face with Tears of Joy emoji’ as the Word of the Year, the first time in Oxford’s history that the word was a pictograph. They felt it best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015. 

For those using an iPhone X, Animoji is an animated emoji that responds to facial expressions via the iPhone X camera, and animates 3D emojis that can be sent as a video file with sounds.

So where next? Some argue the evolution of the aforementioned Animoji is a preview of our immersive avatar future and the emoji will be swept to the back of the cupboard, others feel it will be the language of our future.

Whatever happens, my most used emoji, ‘😂’, will always have a place in my ❤️.