In March, Apple said that it was putting pressure on Unicode, the standards body that oversees emojis, to expand diversity in the little pictures and symbols that have come to define our digital lives. By June, Unicode had announced a summer release of new emojis that included some darker-skinned disembodied hands. Progress! Now the consortium is taking the initiative one step further.
In a proposed draft of a technical report released on Monday, Unicode outlines extensive guidelines for creating emojis with five different skin tones. There is also a section that talks about gender diversity and adding emojis that depict same-sex couples holding hands. Unicode will have its versions of the emojis for broad use or companies can design there own versions using the Unicode guidelines.
Unicode prefaces the document by emphasizing that it is still a draft, can be modified or removed at any time, and is not yet endorsed by the consortium. But it seems like the work on diversity is extensive, so hopefully it’s there to stay. The document explains:
People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone. The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone. …
Unicode Version 8.0 is adding 5 symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji. These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology
It’s a shame that diversity wasn’t originally represented in the emoji set, given how easy it is to access the little pictograms all over the world. Updating the emoji library may seem like a small gesture, but it’s really the only correct thing to do for a form of communication that has become so universal.