Do you speak Emoji? The evolution of the emoticon


Invented in the late 19th century, emoticons and especially its practice is growing every day. A trend that has evolved alongside technological progress and the need for expressive communication.

Differences between emoticon, emoji, and kaomoji sticker

An emoticon is a typographic display of a facial representation. Depending on the chosen characters, different emotions can be expressed.

Example of emoticon:


; – )

Unlike emoticons, emojis (Japanese ‘picture’ + moji « letter, character ‘) are images that can represent any object or abstract concept, character or facial expression. The emoji is the descendant of the emoticon following technological changes that allowed us to use other transcripts than plain text. Imported into the Unicode space since 2010, emoticons have recently grown in popularity since their integration in smart watches.

Examples of emoji:


Although the name is unfamiliar in the West, it’s necessary to distinguish kaomoji emoticons. Invented simultaneously with emoticons, kaomoji are based on Japanese characters. They can be as simple as (* _ *) or as complex as (ノ ◕ ヮ ◕) ノ *: · ゚ ✧. ಠ_ಠ.

The sticker, the latest type of emotions used on social networks is an enlarged and enhanced version of an emoji: wirh details and various decorative elements.

Examples of stickers:

Using emoticons and emoji in the workplace

Now present in most of our personal conversations, at higher or lower frequency depending on the people. Emoji emoticons have not yet clearly positioned in the workplace.

It seems however that these new communication tools are optimal for raising the emotional clarity of digital messages.

Line and WeChat, two leading platforms when it comes to emoji and stickers

Line (600 million user accounts):

Main market: Japan

Developed in 2011 following an earthquake in Japan to compensate for the malfunction of all telephone network, the Line Application originally used to chat via the web. Building on its success, it extended its functionality to video and VoIP conversations and has become the largest Japanese social network. Today Line surfs on the wave of stickers by opening the first platform to sell stickers for designers: where everyone can sell their creations.

Some characters invented for these stickers have become so popular that they can now be found on television or in other derivatives.

A new digital marketing frontier was passed: that of « branded » stickers. Still nonexistent in the West, Lego or Batman characters have already infiltrated Asian social networks.

Twitter has recently followed this trend by introducing the first star wars emoji: typing hashtags # C3PO, #Stormtrooper or # BB8 an emoji appears for each respective character (in a web browser only).

Popular characters on Line:


Brown et Cony  


Floating Seal Max


Main Market: China and Southeast Asia

WeChat has initially been designed as an app for chatting, similarly to Line. Today, WeChat has become one of the largest social networks in the world with a myriad of features including, one of the most recent, payment for goods or services directly from the app.

Popular characters on WeChat :

Sushi Sushi

The future of emoji

Given the scale of the phenomenon, it seems natural to question the future developments of emojis, still so young ..

The birth of a new written language

Some like to imagine that one day there will be a complete language, based exclusively on emojis .

Many Chinese characters are already based on symbols,  and the Egyptians had indeed invented hieroglyphics .

Maybe these emojis will help us build this esperanto as expected.

2 examples of projects:

Emoji translation project:

The Emoji Dick project:  translating Moby Dick into Japanese emoji via Amazon ‘s Mechanical Turk .

Apple now offers the opportunity to express diversity through emoji. In this way, everyone can find a more personalized emoji. 

That said, it seems impossible to imagine a list of emoji listing all variants of the human form, other than skin color, types of hair, glasses, face shapes, beards and mustaches …

Maybe we will find a solution with ligatures?

Association of emoji : ligatures

Created by Alexa Grafera and Louie Mantia , ligatures are joinable emojis.

There are only a few ice creams for now, but the concept is interesting:

The emoji /stickers audio test

Another innovative concept is audio emojis.

A line of audio emojis has just been launched with the first audio emojis recorded by Paul McCartney. He can be heard saying « thank you » or  » good job « .

Emoji and Facial Recognition Software

Finally, perhaps my favorite, because nobody knows what it will look like on a day to day basis: Affdex. The company developed software that recognizes facial expressions « Affectiva » ( Nowadays, there’s a lot of hype around this software as it has finally reached a level of technical precision after analyzing millions of facial expressions.

With this tool, you could, for example, imagine that your phone would read your own emotions while writing your message and automatically adds emojis that match your mood (or not).

In all cases, emojis have entered our lives and they have much more to show in the future.