Emoji are so popular, they’ve come to replace basic conversation on digital platforms and devices.
But a study by Adobe shows that many emoji users around the world do not feel represented by the choices available on their smartphones.
The study, which surveyed 7,000 emoji users across seven countries including the US, UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia and South Korea in February, shows only 54% of global emoji users feel their identity is adequately reflected in current emoji options, while 83% agree that emoji should continue to strive for more inclusive representation.
Gen Z feels the strongest about emoji representation with 41% indicating a desire to see culture reflected in emoji options, compared to 39% of Millennials, 35% of Gen Xers and 30% of Baby Boomers.
It is an issue that Paul D. Hunt, typeface designer and font developer at Adobe, says people should keep in mind when submitting emoji character proposals.
“As a popular emerging symbolic system, important cultural concepts should be included in the realm of emoji,” Hunt said. “The emoji system should not only include the most popular ideas, concepts and cultural objects, but also represent marginalized communities and societies.”
Recently, emoji have become more diverse, with the ability to customize skin tones and hair types, as well as the addition of more gender-inclusive and ethnically diverse options.
Those changes are welcomed, according to the study. More than two-thirds (76%) of emoji users agree that emoji are an important communication tool for creating unity, respect and understanding, and 70% said emoji can help spark positive conversations about important cultural and societal issues.
But certain groups are still underrepresented. Thirty-seven percent of emoji users with a disability said they would like to see more emoji that depict “helping objects” such as a wheelchair, cane or hearing aid.
Indigenous people are also less likely to be represented, Hunt added.
“The more one’s life differs from industrial, technological culture, the less likely their interests are to be served by a communication tool such as emoji,” Hunt said.
There is still work to be done, and Adobe is partnering with Emojination, which aims to make emoji more diverse and inclusive, to ensure that the medium continues to be more representative.
“There’s significant work to be done to make emoji more representative for all,” Hunt said.