Press "Enter" to skip to content

The History of Emoji

The use of emoji has become commonplace in our conversations. In a way, it has evolved to become a part of our way of communicating using electronic media. Although how big of a part it is in our way of communicating varies from person to person. But where do these emoji originate from and how did they become so widespread in the modern era? We are going to try and answer these questions by discussing the history of emoji. So, let us start from the very beginning!


The modern emoji traces its origins to emoticons that predated emoji. These emoticons were first invented in the 1980s by a computer scientist named Scott Fahlman. Examples of these emoticons are 🙁 and :-). Scott Fahlman created these emoticons as a solution for the difficulty experienced differentiating jokes from serious posts on a message board of Carnegie Mellon University. An early version of emoji was created by a Japanese artist named Shigetaka Kurita in 1999 so that they could be used to help electronic communication. He created a set of 176 emoji and which included emoji that showed different objects including but not limited to traffic such as cars and planes, technology such as TV and cell phone, and weather emoji such as sun and clouds. Shigetaka Kurita said in an interview that he got the inspiration for these emoji from “manpu” used in Japanese manga, weather pictograms, street sign pictograms, and from Chinese characters.

Popularization of EmojiTwo boys sitting on a couch holding popular emoji pillows.

The 12 by 12 pixel basic emoji gained popularity in Japan at a fast pace. Emoji were quickly adopted by a multitude of mobile phone companies. As mobile phone technology expanded rapidly throughout the world the major player in the industry, Apple being one of the more prominent one, took an interest in emoji and wanted to make them a part of their product. Finally, in 2010, Unicode adopted emoji officially and added many more emoji such as anger, tears, and cat face emoji, etc. This adoption of emoji by Unicode was a huge step in making the emoji easily accessible.

Emoji in The Modern Day

In the modern technological world, emoji have become a sort of language used by millions. Emoji are generally easy to understand and one can express a lot using them. These factors have contributed to them becoming a globally accepted tool. They have become a feature found in almost any socializing and communication platform such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, etc. It seems like emoji are here to stay. There are some emoji that have been quite controversial. There have even been some emoji that have been used for criminal purposes such as the gun emoji which was removed and replaced by the water gun emoji. But generally, emoji have brought with them a way to communicate with more ease and effectiveness. Today a multitude of emoji can be used to express what you want to say with each emoji being unique in itself and what it conveys. Although variations may occur in the artistic style, these changes are generally minor and the basic meaning of the emoji remaining the same.

Future of EmojiA phone showing a range of emojis.

Each year Unicode Consortium adds a bunch of new emoji to its approved list. So the amount of available emoji is growing as time goes by. We can expect the emoji to become a part of our conversations even more so in the future. We can expect emoji to evolve and grow like any other language and, in a unique way, to become a global language. Some might say that it has already become a global language that we can all speak regardless of our different cultures and languages.