Emojis for city-dwelling creatives.

Moving Brands®
4 min readAug 13, 2015

A rant on the seemingly inconsequential but completely ubiquitous emoji, from Moving Brands Co-Founder Jim Bull.

The beloved emoji’s rapid and meteoric rise into mainstream culture is everywhere. Emojis are now used in a presidential campaign, as an emoji-only airline URL, and a scientific study has recently classified emoji as the fastest growing language in the UK. Emojis are part of the current communications vernacular — loved, overused and here to stay.

When Apple released a new set of emojis earlier this year, adding five new skin tone options and same-sex parenting groups, an instant tidal wave of commentary ensued. Next, the Unicode Consortium announced plans to release another 35 emojis, including a more diverse range of religious iconography. But in the midst of that particular bubble of controversy, it was the inclusion of the taco and mythical unicorn that sparked the most attention.

And that unicorn got us thinking. Emoji sets are loved because they are fun and an instant way to communicate… so as creative-types living and working in London, New York, and San Francisco, what would we add to the existing set, what was missing to represent our lives? What emerged was a self-effacing look at the world of the city-dwelling creative.

Only one coffee emoji woefully under-represents the urban lifestyle of designers.

Take the lone, sad looking ‘coffee’ emoji in the current set. Last time we went to [insert hot new micro-roastery here], there was a mind-blowing number of ways to order, prepare, and drink the mighty cup of coffee. So, why is coffee represented by an icon that would look more at home in a 70’s sitcom than it does on your mobile device? Where are the emojis for flat white, latte, americano, cold press or drip?

In contrast, there are 13 emojis to represent ‘train.’ Whether a train on the overground, London underground, MUNI or MTA, one icon should really do the job. And, the more you look at the current emoji set, the more weird and seemingly irrelevant to modern life it gets.

There are 68 different facial expression to choose from. Let’s be honest. We only really need a mild smile and a way to represent a nonchalant and equally noncommittal shrug.

We took a look at the clothing emojis too, and the current fashion items on offer in the existing emoji set are just not doing it for us. Where are the Converse, the Nike’s, the ankle length fitted jeans? Where are the tight fitting sweaters and cute overalls? And don’t get us started on glasses. Currently only one emoji is used to represent all types and styles of glasses, and it’s not a particularly fashionable pair — not a thick-rimmed hipster-like, Ray-Ban-y, wayfarer-ish, Warby-Parker-esque frame to be seen.

The animals in the current set seem to be pulled from a 9-year old’s slumbersome dream. We want city animals — where is the pug, the frenchie, the grumpy cat? When did you last see a ram on Broadway? Or a dragon on Folsom? We’d rather see the animals that we know are living in our urban environments. Give us rats, mice, cockroaches, flies and bedbugs over koalas, pandas and cows any day.

Moving Brands’ set of animals for urban-city living includes the pug, frenchie, spider, raccoon, squirrel and pigeon emojis.

Lastly, and maybe most worrisome, the technology featured in the current emoji set is wildly out-of-date. The last time we used a pager, a CD, and a VHS was decades ago, but they are still in the current set. Where is the cloud, the GoPro, VR, Nest and the 4KTV? And wouldn’t it be more useful to have emojis to represent Snapchat, Skype, Hangout, Twitter, Netflix or even newer technologies like drones, self-driving cars, Uber, HyperLoop and Tesla’s Powerwall.

Updated technology icons — out are the pagers and CD’s, in are drones, Nest and Tesla’s Powerwall.

Share your comments, or suggestions for other emojis you’d like us to create, on MB twitter, using #MBemoji.

A special thank you to our designer, Amelie Au, who loves to draw, create, and above all, use emojis.

Jim Bull is Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Moving Brands, an independent, global creative company with studios in San Francisco, New York, London and Zurich.



Moving Brands®

We are an independent, global creative and innovation partner to 6 of the world’s 10 most valued brands. London/Zürich/SF/NY/LA