Google has created a new emoji (variable) font with “Noto Emoji,” whose defining characteristic is a black-and-white design that tries to capture the “simplicity” of the format – and also happens to bring back the blobs.
Over time, emoji have become more detailed. Instead of representing broad concepts, there has been a trend to design emoji to be hyper realistic. This wouldn’t be a problem except skeuomorphism’s specificity has resulted in the exclusion of other similar concepts in your keyboard.
Google is bucking that trend toward realism with Noto Emoji by “removing as much detail as possible.” The goal with this set is to make emoji “more flexible, representing the idea of something instead of specifically what is in front of you.” For example, the dance emoji today clearly just represents one form of dancing to the detriment of other types.
Many resulted in 1:1 conversions, but there were several design challenges associated with simplification that prevented Google from just redrawing emoji in black-and-white, especially flags:
You can’t simply convert flags into black and white. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Finland and Sweden. You could redraw the flags but that puts them at risk of being incorrect. Instead, we leveraged the ISO’s country codes. These sequences of letters are unique and represent each country.
Meanwhile, people in Noto Emoji are represented using Google’s blob characters:
Relatable without maintaining a distinction between genders. Google’s blob emoji were really something special. Cute, squishy, and remarkably friendly. We were able to bring back a little bit of what made them special while simultaneously discarding the parts that weren’t working. Most notably, the blobs’ facial expressions were wildly inconsistent but that was very easily fixed in black and white mode.
That said, one modern aspect of Noto Emoji is how it is a variable font with a weight grade that lets characters appear “light” or “bold.” There are also dark and light modes as well as the ability to change text/character color, like all other fronts.
Noto Emoji is open sourced and available from Google Fonts today. It supports the latest Unicode 14.0 specification with 3,663 emojis in total.
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