17 July 2019

A brief history of the emoji

🚨 News alert 🚨 It’s World Emoji Day!

Whether the thought gets you feeling 😍 or just kinda 🙄, emoji are pretty impossible to avoid. Over 5 billion are sent a day on Facebook messenger, and the little critters now appear in nearly half of Instagram comments. But if you think emoji are just a millennial movement, think again my friend…

Sit back, and let us walk you through the history of the humble emoji…



Dr Scott Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, creates the first emoticons. ‘But why?!?!’, we hear you ask. For one simple reason. He wanted an easy way to distinguish the jokes from the serious things he was posting on messaging boards.

Make’s a lot of sense really… 



Fast forward a few years…

Over in Japan, Shigetaka Kurita, an engineer at NTT DoCoMo, decides to create a set of icons that can be sent via mobile internet. Working in a 12 x 12 pixel grid, he develops 176 icons.

(Image credit: NTT DoCoMo Inc)


For the finishing touches, Kurita combines the Japanese words ‘e’ (picture) and ‘moji’ (character).

And so, the emoji is born…


Early to mid 2000s

Emojis explode across Japan.

Unsurprisingly, rival companies, including Apple and Google, are quick to copy DoCoMo’s creation.



Google petition to get emojis recognised by the Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organisation that maintain text standards across computers.



Apple officially jumps on the bandwagon.

In Japan, the emoji keyboard appears on iPhone OS 2.2 in November 2008.

Anyone remember these bad boys?

(Image credit: Apple)



Yasuo Kida and Peter Edberg, Apple engineers in California, submit a request to add 625 new emoji into the Unicode Standard.



Unicode accept Apple’s proposal. Emoji are slowly on their way to world domination.



Apple adds an official emoji keyboard to iOS.



Kinda late to the party, the emoji keyboard is officially added to Android.


2015 to 2016

Emoji get a much needed dose of diversity.

Over the next two years, the pride flag, same sex couples, different skin tones, weightlifting women and single parents are added to the keyboard.



The Emoji Movie is released. All hope for humanity is gone. 



But it’s okay really, because redheads and grey hair are finally getting the recognition they deserve. 👩‍🦰👩‍🦳


So, what’s next in the world of emoji? More good things. Soon we’ll be seeing wheelchair users, bionic arms and hearing aids in the catalogue.

A fun and engaging way to communicate, we can’t see them going anywhere any time soon. Want to see what the Synergy team’s favourite emoji are? Check out our Instagram highlight for World Emoji Day. 

Similar Articles

29 March 2023

How To Foster High-Performing Cultures

Among the changes we’ve seen in our client work over the last year is a…


13 March 2023

How to Improve Organisational Culture

Your workplace culture is a powerful ecosystem. It’s the heart and lifeblood of your people…


9 February 2023

2023 predictions: Employee Experience takes the lead

On the back of a brilliant 12 months in 2022, and as a definite sign…


19 December 2022

2023 Employee Engagement trends

As we move into what we hope is a short recession, employer brands which are…