You’ve Got Me Feeling Emojis
Published: 24 July, 2018
You may or may not wonder how design is used in everyday life, but let us share with you a lesson about how Graphic Design has the potential to save your relationships. Whether you love them or hate them; use them or abuse them; you are likely to have encountered emojis. Not to be confused with emoticons, emojis are those cute little pictographs you use when texting your BFF (Best Friend Forever) or SO (Significant Other). You know, like the face with the heart eyes, or the eggplant, or the pink heart with the gold bow around it. These emojis were designed with the intention of helping us get our message across more effectively and efficiently when communicating using technology (Blagdon, 2013).
A little bit of background theory:
Lasswell says that communication can be explained as “Who, says what, in which channel, to whom, with what effect” (Fiske, 1990, p. 30 as cited by Barnard, 2005, p. 22). In the case of sending a message via a social media platform such as WhatsApp, “who” would refer to the person sending the message; “what” would refer to the content of the message – the actual typed out words; “channel” would refer to WhatsApp (or whichever platform the sender is using); “to whom” would be the intended recipient of the message; and finally, “effect” would refer to how the message is interpreted. This is where Emojis can come in handy.
Is it too late now to say ‘sorry’?
Miscommunication can have devastating effects on a relationship. Consider the following uncomfortable hypothetical situation: You’ve done something you shouldn’t have done, and your SO calls you out on it. You send an apologetic text message saying, “I’m sorry”, but instead of the sad-face or heart emoji, you send the rolling-eyes emoji.
It’s likely that your message will be interpreted as being insincere, which may in turn land you in very hot water. You may go home to find that your favourite cashmere sweater has taken a swim in the washing machine, or your perfume bottle has been accidentally dropped on the floor. But, had you included that red heart emoji at the end, your SO is likely to have forgiven your behaviour.
A bit more theory:
You may think the way we associate certain meanings with little pictures is arbitrary, and you would be totally correct in thinking this way. There is no fixed relationship between a signifier (in this case, think red heart emoji), and what is signified (love). The is no real reason that a drawing of a red heart should be associated with the idea of love, yet through processes of sharing and following certain ‘rules’, a community of people can come to collectively accept this association (Barnard, 2006). In this way, we have have come to accept that certain emotions are associated with certain emojis.
So next time you’re sending a text message to your mom, pause for a second and consider the power of a simple red heart emoji.
Although this article is not endorsed by Mariah Carey, we encourage you to dance around the office and sing along to her 1991 smash hit, Emotions. Click here to watch the music video.
Barnard, M. (2005). Graphic Design as Communication. New York: Routledge.
Blagdon, J. (2013, 4 March). How emoji conquered the world. The Verge. Retrieved April 5, 2018, from https://www.theverge.com/2013/3/4/3966140/how-emoji-conquered-the-world.
Nathan Thomas & Jenni McKenzie