The selection process itself belongs to the Unicode Consortium, a group that includes Google, Facebook, Huawei, and Netflix, among others, which votes on fresh symbols every year. Anyone — yes, including you — can submit an emoji proposal, though there’s a fair amount of research and documentation required (for an idea of what it takes, check out the proposal for “broccoli”).
Once the Consortium releases its list, Daniel starts a design process that is both broad — “How might people use this emoji in a way we can design for?” — and highly detail-oriented — "What lines from a frisbee will make it feel like it’s spinning and moving forward?"
“Each emoji is labored over,” she says. “Everything is questioned.”
Daniel says that the potential for cross-platform emoji snafus (cue: dizzy face) happen because there is shockingly little communication between the big vendors as they start to interpret Unicode’s descriptions. She tries to think about how Apple may design a new emoji, not because she wants to copy it, but in order to mitigate mass consumer confusion.
“There’s not much conversation, but we’re trying to do more of that,” she says. “We’re both on the Unicode subcommittee for emoji, but those discussions are largely about content, experience and file-size, not design.”
These can be complicated discussions with political overtones.
For example, Unicode technically supports a genderless “person” emoji, but Google, and other platforms, are still struggling to support it. Daniel unequivocally believes in supporting non-binary emoji — and interracial couple or family emoji, too — but says it creates both a deeply complex UX problem and a file-size issue, too. Potentially, every human emoji could be available in “man,” “woman,” or “person,” with customizable skin-tone, but the trick is doing that in a way that’s not clumsy and doesn’t require a ton of phone memory.
Right now, Daniel says, people request biracial couples more than any other emoji.
“We’re getting to the point where recognizing yourself in your keyboard is more of an expectation,” she says.