🦊 Emoji Madness

02018Q1 REYKJAVÍK: Lately we’ve been interested in Emojis. Their history is an interesting one. Created in 01999 and then later standardized into Unicode, emojis are small visual glyphs used in and replacing text. 

There is a technical difference between an emoji and an emoticon :) and they are easily confused and intertwined, but for historical reasons it is important. Especially if you want to find the first use of an emoticon.

Quick Links to chew on: ()

We tend to think that emojis are a new thing coming from Japan, but one of the earliest smilies was found in print in 17th century by a Slovakian Scientist. Is a circle with two dots for eyes really the earliest known emoji? India is staking a claim back 3,700 years to ancient pottery. If you ask me, it looks more like graffiti than an emoji.

More history of the Smiley on Wikipedia


Did Abraham Lincoln pioneer the emoticon? (I'll save you a click: No) Other historians [think] the semicolon alongside a closed parenthesis is either a mistake or a misinterpretation of something that is perfectly grammatical for that era. To make matters worse, it is a transcription, so why give Lincoln the credit for something the journalist wrote down! If anything, the journalist was using emoticons, not the President of the United States.

The next historical jump for proper emojis comes in a strange 'feature' of PLATO terminal computers of the 01970s. They allowed you to 'overtype'. Rather than printing the next character to the right, you printed in on top of the previous one.

Knowing about this 'feature' and what words to type, it was possible to create primitive emojis, something more than emoticons.

Once we started looking, emojis began to appear in the strangest of places. If you're ever in Bangkok there is a restaurant called Gaggan (🏽) whose 30 course tasting menu is completely written in emojis.

Can you guess what you’ll be having?

🥒🥚🦐 🌶 🌮 🥕🥟 🥥🥫 🦀 ☯️

What about a snippet of Javascript that make a random talking smilie face emoji? The potential for a fun loading screens or TTS icon has certainly just increased!

setInterval(_=>{
  document.body.innerHTML = [
    ...""
  ][~~(Math.random()*6)]
},95)

Find & replace with emoji

Emojis can act like ligatures. A ligature is when you combine multiple characters for form a new one. A well designed font family will account for some of these letter combinations. Have a look at f and i next to each other. It isn’t two characters, but a separate and unique fi ligature. Emojis can act in a similar way.

Through the use of the Zero Width Joiner (ZWJ) unicode character, we can combine multiple emojis! The ZWJ tells the system to combine these emojis rather than just outputting them next to each other. Once we understand these tricks we can do some fun stuff like add and subtract emojis to change them. 

(This is include as an image since some services can't handle the ZWJ if they are replacing the native emojis with images. *cough* Gmail *cough*)

‍ = â€

We can also then do some fancy find and replace as they level-up.

"‍".replace("","") = â€

It is possible to take it even further

"‍".replace("","") = â€

The Zero Width Joiner works on a lot of emoji characters and the fall back is pretty good too (as some of you might be seeing if they are images). The full list of sequences can be found here: https://unicode.org/emoji/charts/emoji-zwj-sequences.html

Emoji Calendar


We’ve even begun to dabble in our own emoji project. Recently we created an iOS app which gives you a count down to the next holiday. Each holiday is rendered using only two emojis.
We were interested in adding emojis in locations where graphics are otherwise not available, such as on the Apple Watch Face. Where boring text is otherwise displayed in a single color, emojis add a bit of color.
The app app is free and supports US, UK and Icelandic holidays. Give it a try and please send us some feedback.
If all this talk about emojis has got you thinking of something that's missing, you should have a quick listen to the 99% invisible episode called Person in Lotus Position

They take you through the story of a few people's quest to add their ideas into the emoji set. It certainly isn't easy, but far from impossible!

 Emoji Over

That was our little sojourn exploring emojis.I think this is just the start of the journey. 

As Lao Tzu (老子) said:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Material Conference 2018

Friday, November 16th, 2018 we are hosting a small conference dedicated to exploring the concept of the Web as a material. Last year's speakers were great, you can view all the 02017 sessions online

There are still tickets available for 02018, so get your 🗺 on and come visit this November. You'll learn about using the web to programatically make jewellery, how we can weave metallic threads into close to make wearables, and how AI can be used in the design process. It will be interesting for sure!
Get Tickets Today