01 Feb 2017   webgap

More than just a smiley face

More imaginative teenagers – and adults – can now write entire messages in emojis. These little graphic designs are changing the way we talk to each other in every sphere of our lives. An emoji movie is in the works and we live in a world where adding a smiley face to the end of a message makes anything preceding it acceptable as a joke. Other emojis are still prone to misinterpretation though, especially by new users: “No, Mom, that’s not a happy scoop of chocolate ice cream!”.

Emojis can trace their design roots to the creation of the original yellow smiley face back in the 1960s. This graphic then became familiar to millions as the symbol of acid house rave culture in the 1980s. As we know them today, emojis emerged in Japan during the 1990s as a way of minimising mobile phone data usage. Now, of course, there are graphic representations not just for human sentiments but farm animals, food items and much, much more.
One does wonder, however, where emojis come from and are our children (and their grasp of language) safe? Let’s have a look at some of the world’s leading emoji designers and you can make up your own mind.

Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita created the first set of emojis that started this revolution. Initially inspired by manga and kanji characters, the symbols were developed in 1999 as part of NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode platform. This was the world’s first mobile internet system limited to only 250 characters. Kurita had just one month to come up with the original 176 emoji designs which are now on display in the MoMA gallery in New York. Today, you can find over 1800 iterations of the original symbols.

This vast number of expressive graphic designs extend well into many facets of modern communication, most notably, our cell phones. Take Apple for example. Apple emojis were originally created by Willem Van Lancker who designed 400 of the original 500 characters. Their use of emojis reflects the needs of their customers – to communicate creatively using a fun, character-based shorthand – as well as the aesthetic of the company.

Jen Lewis is the graphic designer behind the first set of emojis for Kim Kardashian’s wildly popular Kimoji app. This app was on point in so many ways – not only did it cement Kim’s position as a one-woman pop culture phenomenon but it also spearheaded a trend for celebrities to create their own apps as a way of controlling content about themselves.

The Kimoji app has made Kim (another) fortune through downloads and subscriptions and features emojis which are very relevant to her lifestyle and the one her fans aspire towards. Perhaps, inevitably, many of them feature Kim or parts of Kim in various states of undress. Others include tequila, diamond rings, Hummers and a black heart.

Twitter famously requires its users to communicate with a limited number of characters, so as you’d expect, tweeps everywhere have taken to Twitter emojis like duck faces to selfies. US/Swedish design studio, Iconfactory was briefed to come up with light-hearted, fun versions of familiar emojis. The studio developed a flat, simple style that is immediately recognisable as belonging to Twitter.

Other graphic designs for emojis have been made by Google, Microsoft and Android which each have their own unique representations of the emojis we know and love using today. Thanks to emoji designers, it’s never been easier to express big emotions and ideas in a small number of characters.

08 Feb 2017   webgap

Off the charts

If we’re honest, there’s always been a bit of a disconnect between physical reality and the way it’s represented on maps. Most world maps are based on the Mercator projection, which dates back to the sixteenth century – slightly before we had GPS to check our bearings.The Mercator was a map with an agenda – it had to convey not-so-subtle messages about power, as well as help sailors find their way. The visual design, created by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, became the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course. ...

15 Feb 2017   webgap

Can Businesses Design For Success?

Strictly defined, design has always been about how a product looks and feels, whether it’s a Coke bottle, an iPad or a BMW i8. Designers tend to be secluded in hidden corners of businesses or they’re outsourced entirely. Does this lead to design success?A sea change is underway, with more companies understanding that design is not just an aesthetic event but something which can be fundamental to the success of a business. Especially so when applied universally to business processes. Entrepreneurs are starting to think in terms of design-led businesses and in turn, are creating them.In many ...

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