Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.4, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.7, W.6-8.4, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Culture • Time, Continuity, and Change • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions • Science, Technology, and Society


How Are Emojis Made?

Here’s how emojis go from ideas to symbols that appear on our phones and computers.

As You Read, Think About: Why do people continue to create new emojis?

What do a playground slide, hands in the shape of a heart, and a troll have in common? They’re all part of the newest batch of more than 100 emojis. 

Many people around the world are now able to include them in text messages and social media posts. (Depending on what type of phone you have, they may not yet be available on your device.) These emojis have joined the thousands of others that are shared globally billions of times each day. But have you ever thought about where these colorful symbols come from? 

An organization called the Unicode Consortium oversees the creation of all new emojis. The group is made up mostly of technology companies such as Apple and Google. Each year, Unicode reviews proposals for new emojis and decides which should be added to our devices.

“People think emojis just pop into existence, but a lot of effort is going on behind the scenes to make sure they are as useful as possible for people across the world,” says Keith Broni. He works for Emojipedia, an online encyclopedia of emojis and their meanings.

But the ideas for emojis don’t have to come from tech wizards at big companies. Anyone can submit one—including you! 

“There’s nothing stopping a [kid] from putting forward a proposal,” Broni explains. “There’s no age barrier whatsoever. It’s all about how good the idea is.”

Still, new emojis must meet several criteria, or standards. The do’s 👍and don’ts 👎below will help you come up with a winning design. 

👍 Think globally.

Emojis are an important form of communication across the globe. So any new symbols should be as easy to understand for people in the U.S. as for those in Japan.  

👎 Avoid getting too specific.

There’s a reason you don’t see official emojis of Abraham Lincoln, Hogwarts, or the Nike swoosh. Unicode will reject proposals for emojis of real people, fictional characters, and specific buildings—even ones from books or movies. Brands and company logos are also out. 

👍 Do your homework.

There are already more than 3,600 emojis, so yours has to be unique. Also, many concepts may already be represented by one or more emojis. There’s no need for a handwashing emoji, for example, because that can be represented by the emojis for water droplets, soap, and hands. 💧 🧼 👐

👍 Design for diversity.

Think about people and cultures that aren’t represented by emojis. In recent years, Unicode has worked to make new symbols more inclusive.

“People really want to see themselves reflected in the people and objects on their emoji keyboard,” Broni says. 

In 2015, emojis became available in a range of skin colors. 👦🏿 👦🏾 👦🏽 👦🏼 👦🏻 Two years later, Unicode approved an emoji showing a woman wearing a hijab.🧕The set released in 2019 included the first emojis that represent people with disabilities.

👎 Don’t expect a fast reply. 

It can take up to two years to find out if a proposal has been approved—and another few months for it to actually show up on phones and tablets.

Your Turn! Now that you know what it takes, design your own new emoji. Find out how by clicking here.

All About Emojis


2010: 719

2011: 0

2012: 0

2013: 0

2014: 139

2015: 776

2016: 760

2017: 239

2018: 161

2019: 398

2020: 334

2021: 107

The word emoji is a combination of the Japanese words for “picture” and “character.”


of emoji users say emojis make it easier for them to express themselves.

SOURCES: Unicode; Adobe’s 2021 Global Emoji Trend Report

SKILL SPOTLIGHT: Interpreting Visual Data

In which year were the most new emojis released? Why might some years have more new emojis than others?

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