Spawning the new coral emoji

Love 😍 them or hate 😡 them – emoji are a universal picture language understood by all. They just magically appeared on our devices one day, right? In fact, the first emoji were designed in 1999 but that’s a whole other (very interesting) story. As more and more emoji inserted themselves into daily life, people began to lament – why don’t they have a ‘#insertwhateveremojiyouwishforhere?

The creation of a new emoji is serious business. The coral emoji took 3 years from the original lament of the cnidarian scientists 👩‍🔬👨‍🔬 “…why don’t we have a coral emoji #insertcoralemoji…” to emerging into official existence on devices worldwide!

Queensland Museum researchers on John Brewer Reef
© Queensland Museum, Matt Curnock

The creation of new emoji is overseen by the Unicode Technical committee (UTC) and the Unicode Emoji subcommittee (UES). To see your dream emoji appear you need to put a submission forward to the UES. Emoji submission competition is fierce, no less competitive than going for funding for a scientific project. Only a small percentage of submissions are accepted for coding each year. Submissions involve data analysis of social platforms, internet searches engines, emoji design, and how you could use the emoji in a text, all following a strict set of guidelines.

For Team Cnidaria (specialists in jellyfish, hard & soft corals, and sea anemones), their expertise helped them to be able to recognise and identify just how important corals are and break down their relevance to the wider population in their successful submission.

A soft coral
© Queensland Museum, Gary Cranitch

Once an emoji has been approved the designers fine tune the design according to rigorous graphic design specifications – after all it must be recognisable in an SMS. The design is sent back to the submission team for comments, to ensure it stays as true as possible to the original emoji design. You even have to sign confidentiality 🤐 agreements before you provide feedback on the final design.

Then you wait ⏲️ to see if you made it to the finals and then finally into the world of Emoji… Of course, COVID delayed everyone’s plans so this year saw a large release of new emoji, in total 37 were accepted and published by Unicode including the new coral emoji.

Once the emoji is released it enters creative commons – this means all the different technology platforms take the basic coral emoji design and modify it for their own platform use. All the coral emoji platform versions can be found in the emoji encyclopaedia (yes there is such a thing, and it’s great to use to discover what your cross platform friends see when you send one, or to find out fun emoji statistics)

Current Coral Emoji designs via Emojipedia

What’s next for Team Cndiaria? Well their next proposal is already submitted so cross your fingers 🤞 and let’s hope the next emoji we see is a jellyfish, because until then it’s still #insertjellyfishemojihere for everyone.

Perhaps you have your own need to write up an “#insertyourdreamemoji” submission? Competition might be fierce, but it could make the list and contribute to the way we all use emoji and communicate 📝

Compiled by sea anemone taxonomist and venom researcher Dr Michela Mitchell. Follow her on Twitter @anemonegoddess