The world would be a boring place if it weren’t for emojis. Sure, nothing beats face-to-face conversation, but when you’ve got a busy schedule and need to reach someone, a text message is your best bet! It isn’t always easy to detect sarcasm or humor in a message, and that’s where emojis come in to save the day. If you’ve ever gotten into a heated debate as to whether your message was intended to be a joke, this one’s for you!

What is an Emoji?

An emoji is a small graphic image depicting an array of human emotions. Usually resembling a yellow face with a pair of black eyes and a mouth, they can be found on nearly every smartphone across the globe. Emojis follow a coding standard called Unicode, which means that no matter what device you are using, you’ll most likely be able to read an emoji the way it was intended!

Where Did Emojis Come From?

The modern emojis you know and love became popular around 2011, but they certainly weren’t the first of their kind. Just take a look back into our ancient history as a civilization and you’ll see how strongly we relied on illustrations to communicate! Naturally, humans are visual creatures who thrive on the ability to use images to convey their emotions. That’s why in 3200 BC we counted on hieroglyphics to connect with other people. Fast forward over 5,000 years and we’re still using icons to enhance our messages. Instead of ancient scribes, we’ve evolved to using emoticons and emojis in digital form!

Speaking of modern communication, the inspiration behind the emoji was actually influenced by the creation of the emoticon. Wondering what the difference is between the two? An emoticon is a text-based smiley face, whereas an emoji is an image that depicts an expression, and is standardized across several platforms: iOS, Windows, OS X, and Android.

Emoji vs. Emoticon

The emoticon was born in 1982 when Professor Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University was frustrated there wasn’t a way to associate any emotion behind electronic correspondence. It led to jokes being misunderstood, sarcasm going undetected, and general blandness when communicating online. He sent an email to a message board that included the very first text-based smiley face that read, “I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: 🙂 Read it sideways.” Within only a few months, the trend caught on across the globe and soon enough, typists of all ages were incorporating smiley faces into their messages.

Though Fahlman is generally credited as being the first to use emoticons in written text, there is some debate as to whether a transcript of an 1862 speech by Abraham Lincoln contained a winking face.  We’ll never know if it was a typo or a genuine attempt at documenting humor, but it sure is amusing to think of early typists getting resourceful when transcribing his speech.

Where did emojis come from?
Source: New York Times

Who Invented Emojis?

Though Scott Fahlman is credited with the first use of text-based emojis, the invention of actual pixel-based emoji graphics is attributed to Shigetaka Kurita of Japan. When a pager manufacturer experienced a decline in sales after removing their one and only emoji, Kurita realized how important these icons were. In 1999, Kurita was working for the communications company NTT DoCoMo when he created the first emoji by using a 12×12 grid of pixels. What started as a fun project later turned into a national sensation when over 150 unique emojis were released for mobile phones later that year.

Who invented emojis?
Source: Toronto Star

If you weren’t a child of the nineties, these original emojis might look fairly dated at first glance. After all, Apple totally changed the game when they added emoji functionality to its messaging app in 2011. Shortly after, nearly all major smartphone carriers began to add their own emojis to their software. Before the high-five emoji was ever invented, Shigetaka Kurita was revolutionizing the digital messaging industry with simple winking faces and pixelated heart graphics. He wasn’t saving lives, but we like to believe he played a huge role in how we communicate online.

Why Use Emojis?

If it isn’t clear by now, emojis are really helpful tools to clarify the tone of digital conversations. It’s easy to shrug them off as a staple of millennial culture, but without these innovative expressions, we’d be sending mixed messages across the World Wide Web!

Think emojis were just for texting your friends? Think again! In 2015, the Aloft hotel in New York launched emoji room service! Guests who stay at the hotel can choose from a menu of packages and send the corresponding emoji to the front desk. Whether they need a replacement phone charger or just have a case of the munchies, hotel staff will bring them the items that correspond to the emojis on the menu. Pretty cool, right?

Can Emojis be Used in Advertising?

To print an emoji on a promotional product or use it for commercial purposes, you must first gain permission from the copyright holder for the exact version of the icon you’d like to use. For example, if you want to use Apple’s laughing emoji, you’ll want to reach out to Apple’s legal team to see how you can go about licensing the expression. If you utilize an emoji improperly and without expressed permission, you’re likely violating copyright law. For that reason, utilizing these emojis is not allowed.

Can I use emojis in advertising?

Even if your heart is after a specific emoji, not all hope is lost. Resources like offer over 10,000 icons for customers to use by purchasing a license. They may not be exactly the same as what you’ll find on an iPhone, but they are about as close as you’ll probably get!

If free is more your style, our Free Clipart Library is full of graphics for you to use in your advertising materials. Whether you need something to make your logo pop or you just want something special for an upcoming event, you won’t have to worry about acquiring any licenses or paying any fees to use our free graphics.

Much to the chagrin of marketers everywhere, brands unfortunately are not able to appear in the list of emojis on your phone. As much as we’d all love to have McDonald’s golden arches in our keyboard, that simply can’t happen. Similarly, specific people are not allowed to be featured either. That’s why you’ll never see an official Michael Jackson emoji! Instead, we’ll have to stick to generic icons like French Fries and “Man Dancing Emoji.”

How Are Emojis Made?

If you’ve been wishing there were an emoji in the shape of a unicycle, your dream isn’t too far-fetched! The Unicode Consortium in Silicon Valley is responsible for approving all new emojis for consumers. Anyone can submit an idea for a new emoji, and the Consortium approves new graphics a rate of 50-100 per year. Before you hit “go,” know that they are selective about the types of emojis they approve. Some of their criteria include:

  • Would the icon resonate with people?
  • Is the icon easily recognizable?
  • Is the icon compatible with existing systems?

Of course, the proposed emoji can’t be too vulgar. While there is a middle finger, you probably won’t ever find anything too extreme. For example, in 2016 Apple removed the pistol emoji from iOS 10. Keeping it clean while still being relevant to the general public is a must! As of April 2018, there are 2,789 emojis in the Unicode Standard, with over 150 expected to be released in the fall.

According to Apple, the most popular emojis on their platform are:

However, Apple is constantly adding new emojis to their keyboard! Some of the most recent additions include:

  • Zombie
  • Fairies
  • Dinosaur
  • Broccoli
  • Vampires
  • Hedgehog

Who knows what the future holds for the next round of emojis!

The Future of Emojis

Though it’s impossible to predict what the future holds for emojis, it’s safe to say they’re not going anywhere. The Emoji Movie was even released in July 2017! It may not have been a total hit at the box office, but if you ask us, the movie is a sign of how closely we’ve grown to our favorite emojis.

In September 2017, Apple announced they would be releasing an “Animoji,” which they described as animated versions of traditional emojis. Users are even able to customize their animoji so that it resembles their own face by using their Facial Motion Capture feature. If history repeats itself, it may eventually become a trend that all smartphone providers offer their customers. As for now, we can look forward to more colorful conversations with the help of expressive emojis!


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How Do New Emoji Get Made? (2017, July 27). Retrieved March 27, 2018, from

Lee, J. 8. (2009, January 19). Is That an Emoticon in 1862? Retrieved March 27, 2018, from

Mealey, R. (2017, February 10). Meet the man who invented emoji. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from

Meet the man who invented the emoji – CNN Video. (2017, May 29). Retrieved March 27, 2018, from

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