The history of emojis

Working in the tech industry, our team at Padoq (👋) are surrounded by emojis. They are abundant in Microsoft Teams to communicate with teammates, and we use them on our social media channels and in our marketing materials. In other words, they convey a real sense of emotion and are great for those one-word responses (such as the good old thumbs up 👍)

We wanted to dive right into the history (🔙) of the emoji, from its humble beginnings right up to the 21st century. Why not come on this trip down memory lane?


the first emojis

are born in Japan


unicode adopts emoji


emojis become diversified

They were first created by Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita, who worked for Japan’s mobile carrier DOCOMO. He wanted to design an interface to convey information sufficiently. He created 12×12 pixel images to display everyday things such as the weather and sporting activities.

The universal character encoding software, Unicode adopted and added more emoticons including cat faces emoting happiness, anger, and tears (😹). Kurita’s original 176 emoticons have also remained widely used today.

The year the emoji became really up to date was 2015, when five new skin tones were introduced from light (🙌🏻) to dark skin tone (🙌🏿) with the original yellow skin tone (🙌) becoming more universal over the 10 years.

What does the future hold?

Today, it can be argued emojis have become a language of their own. In 2015, the Oxford Dictionary announced ‘😂’ as its word of the year, with much divide over the decision. It was a world-first for the Oxford Languages. However, their decision was based on a huge increase in emoji usage and reflected ‘ethos’ and the ‘mood’ of the year.

As of next year, there have been 217 new emojis announced coming to a smartphone near you. New additions to Unicode’s Emoji 13.1 include a face in the clouds, heart on fire, a mended heart, and mixed skin tones for couples.