Did You Know: A Colombian Immigrant Helped Create Your Favorite Emojis For The U.S.
Technology has made so much impact in the world we live in. For example, the emoji is perhaps one of the most abundantly used creations of the past decade. From emails to texts to DMs, chances are you use emojis regularly in your everyday personal and private lives. Though they’re such a big influence on the modern world, we’ve never really wondered who created the humble emoji.
That is, until today.
Designer Angela Guzman recently sat down with NPR’s Maria Hinojosa to talk about her hand in the creation of emojis.
Though she has made such a substantial mark on our culture, Guzman came from modest beginnings. She was born in Colombia but moved to Florida as a child. In the segment of “How I Made It,” Guzman explained the difficulty she had communicating while learning English as a child.
“When I moved from Bogatá to Miami, I did not speak a word of English,” she explained. “I remember entering my classroom full of kids and not being able to connect with anyone.”
Though this was difficult and isolating, Guzman used her natural talent to overcome.
“What I ended up doing was actually relying on my drawings skills that I had developed before moving. And kind of communicating with my teachers and my classmates through pictures.”
This struggle would leave a big impression on Guzman. Of the experience, she says:
“I noticed immediately the power that an image can have on someone even though you don’t speak the same language.”
In the podcast, Guzman says that this experience is what encouraged her to pursue a career in graphic design.
In 2008, while looking for internship opportunities, the Latina decided to apply with Apple, Inc. At the end of her internship, Guzman was hired by the company. However, one of her first projects was a daunting one.
She was assigned to help convert and redesign nearly 500 of the original Japanese emojis. The goal was to create images that would be more appealing and better customized to Western audiences.
Though Guzman’s experience made her a great asset for this project, there was still one problem: she had never heard of an emoji until then.
“At the time, the word emoji was not super known,” she explained. “It’s a Japanese term and so I didn’t actually know what the word meant.”
When it was explained to her that the icons were meant to express feelings and emotions, Guzman totally understood. Even though the project was a large one with many entries, Guzman was thrilled to get to designing.
When it came time to start, Guzman chose to first draw an emoji that she felt an instant connection with.
“That’s why I started with the engagement ring,” Guzman confesses.
As an undergraduate, the designer had studied industrial design. She felt comfortable rendering metals because of this background. However, she felt more than a bit challenged when it came to the diamond.
Guzman was also inspired by real life items. As she explains in the podcast episode, she would visit the grocery store and examine fruit before rendering. The textures and details, she says, are what give the emojis their unique aesthetic.
In all, Guzman believes she and her mentor, Raymond Sepulveda, have left their personalities on the emojis they created.
“For example, when [Raymond] made the happy poop swirl,” Guzman describes. “Pretty soon he created the icecream cone and plopped the swirl — the happy poop — into the cone.”
Creative rendering aside, it’s no doubt that this Colombiana’s work has made a cultural impact. Emojis are now used in phone games, sold as merchandise, have their own movie and have become an entire language of their own.
So, next time you send that eggplant emoji, spare a second to acknowledge the cultural significance of Angela Guzman and her emojis.