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Where Did Emoji’s Come From?

It's world emoji day but where did it all start

July 17th is the globally recognised World Emoji Day and here at Absolute Digital Media, we’re celebrating in style. These charming, convenient and sometimes funny little pictures have become a language in and of themselves, taking over our social media accounts, earning their very own franchise in the form of merchandise and even a movie – but where did they all come from?

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To celebrate World Emoji Day, our social media team has dug a little deeper into the origin and growth of the renowned emoji! For more information, feel free to get in touch on 0800 088 6000.

Table Of Contents:

  • Where Did Emoji’s Come From?
  • How Did Emoji’s Develop?
  • The Apple Keyboard
  • Emoji’s In Video Titles
  • The Future Of Emoji’s

Where did emojis come from

Where Did Emojis Come From?

As you might expect, the very first emoji was created by a Japanese artist back in 1999. 1999 was a big year for the internet, with the BBC even posting a report claiming that stocks were soaring, that ‘free’ ISPs were kick-starting internet access and the release of WAP – or Wireless Application Protocol – was linking mobiles to the internet (sound familiar?). With all of this revolutionary technology and growth, it was only right that it was also the year emojis came to be.

While ‘emoticons’ had been around since as early as 1881, defined as facial expressions made our of punctuation, it wasn’t until the early 80’s that they were first incorporated into computer language. It was still a number of years before they were starting to be used in chatrooms in their more primitive form, like the nostalgia-worthy 🙂 🙁 and :-D.

It was Shigetaku Kurita that took this form and turned it into something a little more like we see today. Kurita was an engineer at a phone company Docomo, who were setting out to release the world’s first major mobile internet system. As part of this release and following on from the success of the heart button on Docomo’s pagers, Kurita set out to turn emoticons into something a little more substantial – emojis.

Emoji translates directly to e – picture, and moji – character, in the Japanese language, but even with a name and a concept, he struggled to get anyone to jump on board. The likes of Panasonic, Sharp and Fujitsu weren’t interested, and so Kurita took matters into his own hands to design 12px X 12px designs.

Kurita created 176 emojis to be exact, each designed to portray information in a much more concise way. For example, a handful of weather emojis would portray what the conditions were like or were set to be without having to type out the words, vehicles would convey travel plans, and so on.

Kurita even commented:

“Everything was shown by text. Even the weather forecast was displayed as ‘fine’. When I saw it, I found it difficult to understand. Japanese TV weather forecasts have always included pictures or symbols to describe the weather—for example, a picture of the sun meant ‘sunny’. I’d rather see a picture of the sun, instead of a text saying ‘fine’.”

How did emojis develop

How Did Emojis Develop?

The initial spread of emojis was fast but at first, it seemed relatively controlled. Kurita took his designs to some of the major companies in Japan, a number of whom were happy to take them on and incorporate them into their systems and as a result, more and more tech and mobile-based companies began to utilise very similar designs. It wasn’t long, however, until some of these companies – particularly Docomo’s direct competitors J-Phone and AU – began to take liberties and add their own designs and additional emojis into the mix.

This sudden lack of consistency started to cause issues, with emojis failing to show up when sent between different devices and carriers. In short, the entire emoji process was nowhere near as smooth as it is today. It wasn’t until Google got involved that this smoothed out completely – In 2007, after years of this confusion and lack of consistency, Google made a request that the Unicode Consortium created codes to ensure unification across every platform.

Unicode was first introduced in 1987 to offer some kind of clarity with simple lettering online, and so it was a natural move to create a code set for emojis to do the same. 114 emojis were initially added to Unicode 5.2 and from there, the path for international expansion was paved.

The Apple Keyboard

The Apple Keyboard

As you might expect, it was Apple’s adoption of emojis to its own keyboard that truly kickstarted the sudden rush in popularity for emojis. In 2008, they released their first emoji keyboard with iOS 2.2, though initially just to the Japanese market. Just a year later, it had expanded overseas and two engineers, Yasuo Kida and Peter Edberg, took matters into their own hands and proposed the addition of 608 new emojis into the Unicode Standard. This was accepted by 2010, and so the recognised emoji count jumped to 722 by the release of Unicode 6.0.

What followed was a relatively turbulent year spent trying to expand this grown keyboard to the western world, before Apple finally released the full emoji keyboard outside of Japan and Android devices followed just two years later. The Unicode Standard provided guidelines as to how an emoji should look at its core and so while Android’s emoji keyboard featured its own unique designs, they were similar enough to ensure that long-sought-after consistency across the board.

The future of emojis

Emojis In Video Titles

In addition to being used in text messages, Facebook statuses and Instagram captions, emojis can also be used in video titles to increase visibility. What many are unaware of is that putting an emoji in a video title boosts it to the top, often appearing ahead of videos only containing plain text. Not only is this perfect for generating more views, but also for brand awareness, too.

The Future Of Emojis

Since they took off back in the early 2010s, emojis have become a language form in and of themselves, particularly on social media. The use of an emoji can offer better clarity and description, enhancing conversations across the web, and even hold the potential to break down language barriers. The future of content seems to be leaning towards visual, and so it’s certainly no surprise that emojis could be the new age communication we’re looking for.

With the use of a simple emoji, users can offer a better idea of the tone or intention behind their words, or even respond to a text, message or comment without having to use words at all. Just like we utilise body language, facial expressions and gestures, emojis offer similar insight into how we’re feeling. Emojis have become a punctuation form all of their own and while they can’t quite be used as a conversation language all on their own just yet, the catalogue is constantly growing and the potential for the future is huge.

Communicating in both a social, and marketing sense, is made simpler and enriched by the use of emojis. For businesses, emojis can help attract increased engagement on social media, encourage click-through rate and even lead to conversions. In fact, it’s said that the use of some of the most popular emojis has the potential to increase engagement by 48% on Instagram alone.

Some of the most popular emojis include:

  • Laughing Face Emoji 😂
  • Heart Emoji ❤️
  • Crying Face Emoji 😭
  • Heart Eyes Emoji 😍
  • Thumbs Up Emoji 👍🏼

It’s also suggested that there are certain emojis that are particularly apt for increasing click-through rates, engagement and more. According to HubSpot, you should use the following emojis in your marketing to increase engagement:

  • OK emoji 🙆
  • Cherries Emoji 🍒
  • Tropical Fish Emoji 🐠
  • Woman Dancing Emoji 💃
  • Sun Behind Small Cloud Emoji 🌤

And if you want to encourage click-through, use:

  • Octopus Emoji 🐙
  • Horse Face Emoji 🐴
  • Jeans Emoji 👖
  • Cherries Emoji 🍒
  • Locomotive/Train Emoji 🚂

While there doesn’t appear to be any set reason as to why these emojis increase engagement or click-through, studies have suggested that articles and social media posts promoted and posted with these emojis generate the most engagement across the board.

Beyond these statistics, emojis offer businesses the chance to converse with their customers on a wider scale. Emojis can play a part in creating an emotional message for audiences, particularly millennial and generation Z, but only when used well. If you’re going to use emojis in your marketing, you need to make sure that:

  • They Are Relevant – If the emoji doesn’t fit, don’t use it. Check to see what emojis your audiences uses regularly and try and remain consistent with your own use. Don’t use an emoji just for the sake of it!
  • Be Clear – Know the purpose of your emoji use, and make sure that it’s clear to your customers just what the emoji is there for too.
  • Be Different And Creative – Every brand out there is probably using emojis somewhere in their marketing, even if it’s just on their Twitter page. For this reason, you need to inject a bit of creativity into emoji use. Create your own emoji designs to enhance branding and awareness and most importantly, just have fun!


Everybody loves and emoji and we’re just as excited as the next person to share with you that there are not one, but 217 new emojis to come to your keyboard in 2021! The announcement regarding the new emoji’s was made earlier this year in September, leaving many excited as to what emoji they could feature in their bio next.

With a confirmed list of new emoji’s on the horizon, we’ve got to say that this is probably one of the best emoji releases to date, featuring numerous new, fun characters to help us express our emotions. Some of these include new smileys, animals, food items and more!

Emojis are a powerful tool in communication today. Offering clarity, enhancements to a conversation and more, these little pictograms have revolutionised the way we chat and post online. Using emojis within your businesses social media, advertising and even in direct communication with customers can create a more approachable atmosphere around your brand, but only when used correctly and within reason. Will you inject emojis into your marketing techniques?

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For more information, get in touch with a member of our expert team on 0800 088 6000, today.

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