July 17th was World Emoji Day, marking a global celebration of the emoticon-style icons that have become an online language in their own right.
Emojis fly in the face of plain-text web design, turning entire words into a single icon, such as a national flag to represent a country name, or a tiny globe in place of the words ‘world’, ‘planet’ or ‘Earth’.
They pose their own challenge for search visibility, but have been embraced particularly on social networks, including on Twitter where character count is crucial – and they help to transcend language barriers too.
In the run-up to World Emoji Day, Google worked for several months with the Unicode Technical Committee, which decides what new emojis should be standardised for use across different platforms, such as different mobile phone operating systems.
Since May, Google have been working to persuade the UTC to approve a set of different professions in male and female form – such as singer, scientist, doctor and builder.
The emojis have now been approved, meaning 11 new professions are now available with traditionally male and female hairstyles, as well as a variety of skin tones to represent different ethnicities.
Of course, they do not represent every possible gender identity or combination of skin and hair colour – but the intention to account for a broad selection of global diversity is there.
A further 33 existing emojis with the standard yellow skin tone have been given male and female versions – ‘male’ represented by shorter hair and a turquoise shirt and ‘female’ by longer hair and a purple shirt.
Nicole Bleuel, marketing lead and diversity champion for emoji, wrote on the Official Google Blog: “More than 90% of the world’s online population use emoji. But while there’s a huge range of emoji, there aren’t a lot that highlight the diversity of women’s careers, or empower young girls.”
She noted how existing emojis included private investigator, policeman and medic for men, but princess, hairdresser and bride for women.
“The emoji representing women aren’t exactly, well, representative,” she added. “So we’ve been working to make things better.”
If you have not yet incorporated emojis into your social media strategy, this new diversity and equality is something to be aware of – perhaps allowing you to represent your own target audience more accurately in future posts.