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Father of emojis

In praise of Shigetaka Kurita – father of the emoji

As Christmas draws near it’s typical for businesses to step back a little from their daily work and have a bit of fun.

We’re doing the same here at React, and thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a blog to a lesser known hero of the digital era – a certain Shigetaka Kurita.

Simple characters

Kurita is the Japanese designer who invented the first set of emojis, those images and smiley faces that today are commonly used to add expression and substance to text and social media messages. Simple characters they may be, but emojis generate strong feelings on both sides.

Some use them all the time and it’s not uncommon for people to send messages that are devoid of text and contain only emojis – maybe a clapping emoji or with thumbs up – in response to a previous message. (For your information, the Face With Tears of Joy is the most popular emoji). Others steer clear of the smiley faces – finding them annoying and the preserve of text-obsessed teens

Design classic

Whatever your take on them, there is no doubt that emojis have well and truly entered into popular culture with some 60 million  being used each day on Facebook alone across the globe. Their shift into common usage was confirmed in 2015 when the Oxford English Dictionary named emoji as its Word of the Year. What’s more, the original 176 emojis designed by Kurita in 1999 were recently acquired by the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York as a design classic.

original emojis

Reduce misunderstanding

Kurita came up with the emojis for an early cellphone system in Japan as a way for people to communicate quickly and easily. He also felt that the use of emojis in short messages would reduce the number of misunderstandings and people interpreting messages in the wrong way. He says he drew inspiration for the design from symbols used on weather forecasts and from Chinese kanji characters. His emojis include icons for weather, food and drink, and moods and feelings – including the heart emoji, which is the symbol for love.

From Kurita’s original 176 emojis there are now well over 2,000 which have become universal through their inclusion in Apple’s iPhones and on other popular mobile operating systems such as Android.

So raise a Glass emoji to Mr Kurita this Christmas and thank him for making us all Laughing emoji over the years.


 Guess the emoji meaning

A quick game here to see how skilled up you are on your emojis!


Films emoji games

English expressions:

Expressions emoji

How many did you get right? See answers here.


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