Emjoi craze a smi­ley-faced suc­cess story

‘World’s fastest-grow­ing lan­guage’ meet­ing a need, ac­cord­ing to cre­ator

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Tokyo

From a hum­ble smi­ley face with a box mouth and in­verted V’s for eyes, crude weather sym­bols and a rudi­men­tary heart — emoji have ex­ploded into the world’s fastest-grow­ing lan­guage.

There are now about 1,800 emoji char­ac­ters. They cover ev­ery­thing from emo­tions and food to pro­fes­sions, are racially di­verse and have be­come an in­te­gral part of the smart­phone age.

The dig­i­tal hi­ero­glyph­ics are re­garded as so sig­nif­i­cant that New York’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, which is home to works by Andy Warhol and Pablo Pi­casso, is ex­hibit­ing the orig­i­nal 176 de­signs.

Shige­taka Ku­rita, the man who cre­ated the char­ac­ters, is still sur­prised by the suc­cess of his idea, but said he was meet­ing an ob­vi­ous need.

“It wasn’t only Ja­panese who felt in­con­ve­nienced when they were ex­chang­ing text mes­sages. We were all feel­ing the same thing,” he said.

Keenly aware of how text mes­sages could be mis­con­strued, he wanted to cre­ate vis­ual ac­com­pa­ni­ments to help ar­tic­u­late tone.

“With a heart, the mes­sage can’t be neg­a­tive — what­ever the text says,” Ku­rita said, de­scrib­ing his mo­ti­va­tion to in­clude the sign.

Ku­rita is in New York this month to visit the ex­hi­bi­tion hon­or­ing his cre­ation.

“These 12 x 12 pixel hum­ble mas­ter­pieces of de­sign planted the seeds for the ex­plo­sive growth of a new vis­ual lan­guage,” said Paul Gal­loway, a de­sign col­lec­tion spe­cial­ist at the mu­seum.

Among Ku­rita’s ideas for orig­i­nal emoji was a pile of fe­ces.

“I made poo. It’s child­ish, but I thought it’s good to have some­thing that makes peo­ple chuckle,” he said.

To­day, a smi­ley-faced poop is one of the world’s most pop­u­lar emoji, though ac­cord­ing to the emo­ji­tracker web­site, a face with tears of joy is the sym­bol that is used the most.

De­spite be­ing pop­u­lar in Ja­pan around the turn of the cen­tury, it took an­other decade for emoji to re­ally take off glob­ally.

The suc­cess is in part due to the soar­ing pop­u­lar­ity of smart­phones, which has re­sulted in a jump in mo­bile mes­sag­ing.

‘Mak­ing his­tory’

It is es­ti­mated emo­jis are used by 92 per­cent of the “on­line pop­u­la­tion”, ac­cord­ing to the 2015 Emoji Re­port, re­leased by a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing firm. In the same pe­riod the Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary chose an emoji as its word of the year.

This month, a Lon­don trans­la­tion agency said it was seek­ing for an “emoji trans­la­tor” to help meet the “chal­lenges posed by the world’s fastest-grow­ing lan­guage”.

“We have turned a cor­ner in writ­ing, whereby pho­netic script and vis­ual sym­bols are be­ing in­te­grated more and more,” said Univer­sity of Toronto an­thro­pol­ogy pro­fes­sor Mar­cel Danesi, au­thor of The Semi­otics of Emoji: the rise of vis­ual lan­guage in the age of the in­ter­net.

“In some ways, (emoji) have ren­dered com­mu­ni­ca­tion much more fluid and ef­fec­tive.”

Shige­taka Ku­rita, cre­ator of emoji char­ac­ters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.