Google is customizing 992 of its emoji designs to make them more “universal, accessible and authentic”, the company announced today. The new designs will come in the autumn with Android 12, but Google says that they will also be available on older versions with apps that use the Appcompat compatibility layer. They are also coming to other Google platforms like Gmail, Chrome OS, Google Chat and YouTube Live Chat this month.
None of the changes are particularly drastic. Instead, they are mostly the kind of tweaks that make the meaning of each emoji easier to understand with a moment of a wider range of people. Pie emoji, for example, currently look like a classic American pumpkin pie. It̵
In other cases, Google has given the designs a bolder, more exaggerated look, which is useful considering how small they appear on most screens. Croissant and bacon emoji will now get more shine for them, while the scissors have a more excessively sharp edge. Vehicles such as cars and taxis have also had proportions adjusted to make them more noticeable.
Finally, the bikini emoji does not look like it is worn by an invisible person, and face mask emoji now show a face with open eyes. Google says it made this change to reflect the fact that masks have become “a universal way of showing kindness to others” instead of a symbol of someone being sick.
It is not uncommon for companies to redesign the emoji in this way, either to correct inaccuracies or to reflect changing cultural assumptions about how they are used. Last year, Apple made a similar adaptation to its own mask emoji to show a smiling face under the mask, and it has also switched emoji from the syringe to make it more appropriate as a symbol for vaccines. In 2019, it even updated its abacus emoji after people pointed out problems with its old design. And let’s not forget Google’s redesign of its burger and beer emoji in response to a scream in 2017.
If you’re wondering why we’ve seen such a stream of emoji news in the last couple of days, it’s because this year’s World Emoji Day lands tomorrow, July 17th. Yesterday we saw the announcement of the finalists for this year’s new batch emoji, Facebook announced a new emoji with sound for its Messenger service, and even Microsoft came into action with a new set of 3D emoji across Windows, Office, Microsoft Teams and elsewhere.