Meet the Designers Behind 6 Popular Emoji Sets

Today, there are over 1,800 emojis compatible for the iPhone, from the hijab to the flying saucer. It has come a long way from the early years of the symbolic characters, which were invented in 1999 by Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita, who wanted to create a visual keyboard inspired by Manga. Today, the gamut of emoji sets includes everything from celebrity “popmojis” to traditional emojis from Google and Microsoft. Here are some of the latest custom emojis and the designers behind them.

Apple Emojis

1-willem-van-lanckerHundreds of Apple emojis were created by American designer Willem Van Lancker who studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and worked as a designer at Google and IDEO before designing this set of emojis, which were initially created for iPhone Japan before going worldwide. He says he created the emojis while working as an intern at Apple. “It’s a lot like spoken languages,” he said. “Things are lost in translation.” Since he was on a deadline to create these emojis, Van Lancker made some of them in just 30 minutes.



Jen Lewis is a New York-based designer who works as a staff writer and illustrator at BuzzFeed and designed the first 240 emojis that launched with Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji app. The Kimojis she designed cover a far-reaching variety beyond the typical farm animals and smiley faces we’re used to seeing in the Apple emojis. Instead, there are creative emojis like a cream-covered peach, clear stripper heels and one of Kim crying. There is also a Kimoji devoted to a woman’s hand wearing a diamond ring flipping the bird. There is also the wildly famous black heart emoji. Some of the new Kimojis, which were released in October, include nude (but censored) photos, Kim dressed as a French maid, in short shorts and in a bikini.

iOS 10 Emojis3-ios-emoji23-ios-emoji


iOS 10 offers 72 emojis, from surfers to people out for a jog, to different kinds of workers, like construction workers to police officers. There are also ones with people wearing turbans, pregnant women and a selfie arm. The design team is spearheaded by Jonathan Ive, who leads Apple’s in-house team, which recently announced a new coffee table book entitled Designed by Apple in California, which documents 20 years of product designs.

Unicode Emojis


Unicode releases 56 new emojis in 2017 including men and women wearing headscarves, as well as strange ones like one of a vampire and a flying saucer. They’re still more diverse than they used to be, proving that emojis could actually be progressive. What people are still complaining about, is the neglect of gingers; there are still no emojis for redheads. Paul D. Hunt is the senior typeface designer and font developer at Adobe, which creates Unicode emojis, he created the orange heart, which was previously missing in the heart-colored rainbow. But the process of creating new emojis isn’t simple. He starts by drawing the artwork in RoboFont, an app made for font developing, shares it with his colleagues for feedback and revises until completion.

Twitter Emojis


The Iconfactory design studio, which has offices in Stockholm and Greensboro, created a fresh set of emojis for Twitter (also known as Twittojis). “Twitter wanted light-hearted, fun versions of the familiar icons users around the world know and love,” Iconfactory writes on their website. “Initial design explorations centered on a simple, flat style that would be easily identified as uniquely Twitter’s. The Iconfactory worked with the Twitter design team to develop the style, and over two and a half months produced more than 800 individual emoji optimized in multiple bitmap and vector formats.”

Eistein Emojis


The world famous German scientist Albert Einstein also has his own set of emojis, better known as EinsteinMoii is available on iOS and Android. The idea came from Anthony Iliakostas at Greenlight Rights, who owns licencing to the Einstein brand. It was designed by Moji, an emoji-focused design studio. The new keyboard shows Einstein by the beach, hanging out with his dog and catch phrases like “That’s genius!”

The Emojis of Julia Heffernan

Emojis for NBC’s 2016 Olympics coverage


This New York-based artist and illustrator has several clients who work with her as an emoji artist. From NBC to Comedy Central, Heffernan has worked on creating a number of emoji keyboards. Her keyboard for the French cosmetics line Sephora includes 70 emojis (which range from girls taking selfies of themselves to fake eyelashes). And her emojis for Tampax included a tampon emoji both with and without the packaging (including a garbage bin emoji).


tampax_juliah emojidress_julia

She also created a custom-made emoji dress in Miami for the Diamonds Unleashed group exhibition at the Mandarin Oriental, which was part of the Art Basel Miami Beach art week. The dress is called “Ladies Night” and simply shows what women do when they go out together.  “I tried to think of things me and my friends like to do on ladies’ night,” said Heffernan. “From getting ready for a night out to having some cocktails to late night cigarettes and slices of pizza.”

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