Jobs of tomorrow: Emoji designer

Billions of kitsch pictograms are sent every day, and someone has to design them. Might as well be you...

Last Updated: 07 Dec 2016

While Uber and WhatsApp might hog the media spotlight, out there in the real virtual world it's the emoji that rules the day. Used by an estimated 90% of the world's online population, emojis are claimed to be the fastest growing form of communication around.

The 'face with tears of joy' emoji was even voted 'Word of the Year' by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015 (and if the OED doesn't care that it's not actually a word, why should we?).


The emoji was born in Japan in the 90s, a wheeze to get teens using pager services (remember them?). Inspired by Manga comics and the Chinese alphabet, graphic designer Shigetaka Kurita penned the first 176 emojis.

Global fame was guaranteed once early iPhone users found they could download the emoji keyboard intended for Japan. It's now standard on iOS and Android, there's a choice of over 1,800 cute, kitsch pictograms to madden or delight (rosy-cheeked faces and rodents aplenty, not so many vegetables. Be very careful with the aubergine). Over six billion emojis are sent every day, and somebody has to design the little beggars. Might as well be you.


The emoji 'pictionary' is curated by The Unicode Consortium in California, whose job is to encode words (and emojis) in all languages so that all devices can understand what's being sent to them and reproduce it. Although anyone can suggest an emoji to Unicode, many successful emojis are the work of designers employed by the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Google.

The small print

You won't earn a king's ransom as a graphic designer. The typical salary in the UK is around £35,000 pa, so if you want to get rich it's probably not for you.

Image credit: Frank Behrens/Flickr

Next up: Nanomedic


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