For as often as iPhone users make use of emojis, it’s easy to forget that the standard emoji keyboard we’ve come to know and love didn’t make its official debut on the iPhone until iOS 5 debuted back in 2011. Since then, Apple has steadily increased the selection of available emojis while also taking steps to make them more diverse. And while Apple certainly isn’t the only platform to feature an impressive array of emojis, I think it’s fair to say that Apple’s emoji designs are far more creative and detailed than what one has historically seen on platforms like Google and Twitter, as illustrated by this 2014 piece in the Huffington Post.
Recently, Angela Guzman — one of the designers responsible for many of the iPhone’s original emojis — published an interesting piece on Medium detailing the work that went into creating iconic emjois that have undoubtedly been used innumerable times over the past few years.
Currently a designer at Google, Guzman back in 2008 was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RSID) when she landed a summer internship at Apple. While there, her first project was to create the iPhone’s first set of emoji designs.
Guzman was subsequently assigned a mentor who taught her the ins and outs of sophisticated and elegant icon design. With the proper foundation in place, Guzman got to work and began cranking out nearly 500 emojis. And as is typical for Apple, Guzman sweated every single detail when crafting the emojis.
My first emoji was the engagement ring, and I chose it because it had challenging textures like metal and a faceted gem, tricky to render for a beginner. The metal ring alone took me an entire day. Pretty soon, however, I could do two a day, then three, and so forth. Regardless of how fast I could crank one out, I constantly checked the details: the direction of the woodgrain, how freckles appeared on apples and eggplants, how leaf veins ran on a hibiscus, how leather was stitched on a football, the details were neverending. I tried really hard to capture all this in every pixel, zooming in and zooming out, because every detail mattered. And for three months I stared at hundreds of emoji on my screen. Somewhere in there we also had our first Steve Jobs review, which had created a shared experience of suspense and success when they were approved for launch. And if Steve said it was good to go, I’d say lesson in craftsmanship, check.
There are a number of quirky and entertaining details in Guzman’s post that are worth mentioning. For instance, the shape of the happy poop swirl doubles as the top of the ice cream cone emoji. As another example, Guzman relays that she saved some of the more difficult emojis for last, with the iconic dancing woman with the red dress being one such example.
Guzman’s recap of her time crafting emojis at Apple is a great read, with the full story available here.