🦁 Emoji in the wild
The most common emoji sequences have a high level of repetition, like 💓 💕💗 or 😆😂😆 or 🎂🎈🎉 . Seventy-one percent of Gboard sessions containing an emoji use it alongside words, and of the sessions containing only emoji, the majority use just one or two, presumably to reply to a previous message.
But my favorite part of the job is hearing about how people get creative with emoji, adapting the meanings of the icons with the kind of imagination usually associated with art and music. Friend and fellow Google designer Damien Correll recently told me he uses 🐘👞 in lieu of hearts to his wife, Kim, because when you mouth “elephant shoe” it looks the same as “I love you.”
My girlfriend Julia types 🤸🕳️ to indicate when she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown … and another friend uses 👀✌️👀 to say “eye to eye.”
And as for the 2nd place medal emoji—another one that I initially deemed useless—my buddy Ryan uses 🥈 to connote parenting blunders, like when his daughter fell off the playground slide.
What’s that Carl Jung quote? “Loneliness does not come from having no one around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that are important to you.” Right now, we have more ways to communicate about what matters than ever before. Give humans a bunch of symbols, and we will find a way to make them say what we mean.
This essay was adapted from a talk Daniel gave at the 2018 Typographics conference. It was originally published in the first issue of the Google Design magazine.
- Glenn A. J. McCulloch and Lauren Gawne, “Emoji Grammar as Beat Gestures,” Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Emoji Understanding and Applications in Social Media, (June 2018).
- Garreth Tigwell and David R. Flatla, “Oh that's what you meant!: reducing emoji misunderstanding,” Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services Adjunct, (September 2016): 859-866, https://doi.org/10.1145/2957265.2961844.
- Sarah Wiseman and Sandy Gould, “Repurposing Emoji for Personalised Communication: Why 🍕 means ‘I love you’,” Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, no. 152 (April 2018)
- Ian Bogost, “Emoji Don’t Mean What They Used to,” The Atlantic, February 11, 2019.
- Courtney Seiter, “The Psychology of Emojis,” The Next Web, June 23, 2015.
- Brandy Shaul, “Report: 92% of Online Consumers Use Emoji,” Adweek, September 30, 2015.
- Bjarke Felbo, Alan Mislove, Anders Sogaard, Iyad Rahwan, and Sune Lehmann, “Using millions of emoji occurrences of learn any-domain representations for detecting sentiment, emotion and sarcasm,” Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, (September 2017): 1615-1625, https://doi.org/10.18653/v1/D17-1169.
- Gretchen McCulloch and Ben Medlock, “The linguistic secrets found in billions of emoji,” (presentation, SXSW, Austin, Texas, March 12, 2016).
- Internal data from Gboard