Google redesigns its emoji to be more universal and authentic

Google is tweaking 992 of its emoji designs to make them more “universal, accessible, and authentic,” the company announced today. The new designs will arrive this fall alongside Android 12, but Google says they’ll also be available on older versions with apps that use its Appcompat compatibility layer. They’re 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’re mostly the kinds of tweaks that make the meaning of each emoji easier to understand at a glance by a wider range of people. The pie emoji, for example, currently looks like a classic American pumpkin pie. That’s fine for Americans, but it means that, in the UK, the design looked closer to a tart than a traditional pie. The new more universal design should fix this.


American-style pie versus a more universal design.
Image: Google

In other cases, Google has given its designs a bolder, more exaggerated look, which is helpful considering how small they appear on most screens. The croissant and bacon emoji will now have more of a shine to them, while the scissors have a more exaggerated sharp edge. Vehicles like cars and taxis have also had their proportions adjusted to make them more eye-catching.

Finally, the bikini emoji no longer looks like it’s being worn by an invisible person, and the face mask emoji now shows a face with its eyes open. Google says it made this change to reflect the fact that masks have become “a universal way of showing kindness to others” rather than a symbol of someone being sick.


The eye-opening new mask design.
Image: Google

It’s not unusual for companies to redesign their emoji like this, either to correct inaccuracies or reflect changing cultural assumptions about how they’re used. Last year, Apple made a similar tweak to its own mask emoji to show a smiling face underneath the mask, and it has also changed its syringe emoji 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 redesigns of its burger and beer emoji in response to an outcry in 2017.

If you’re wondering why we’ve seen such a flurry of emoji news over the past 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 of emoji, Facebook announced new emoji with sound for its Messenger service, and even Microsoft got in on the action with a new set of 3D emoji across Windows, Office, Microsoft Teams, and elsewhere.

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