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i am going to start writing with more emoji

Digital culture is replacing words with emojis, and I am fascinated with it! As a visual artist, I know the power of using symbols to communicate, and how they give us nonverbal ways to express our ideas and share our experiences.

I have been reading about the design and history of emojis and icons, and have learned that visual language isn’t as new as I originally thought. My studies reminded me of cave paintings, the Egyptians, Native Americans, Asians and many other cultures who have used picture based language for thousands of years. Even in recent times, we regularly use symbols for bathroom 🚻, danger⚠️, navigation↪️🚸, operating machinery⛔️, and so forth. An advantage of visual language is that it can transcend other languages. If you have ever visited a country where you don’t know the language, there is no doubt that icons helped you understand important information.

snow falling on cabinTo practice this idea, I have started to create my own icons/emojis to tell you all a little bit about my week. This is what the weather was like in Old Washington.

In my personal life, I have been taking a 7-day break from Facebook every month (which freed up a lot of time for studio work and exploring the world of emojis). I thought this symbol was a good way to represent that experience:

animated hand turning off cellphoneIt’s interesting how, nowadays, adult coloring books have become bestsellers and Bob Dylan recently won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. (For the record: i think both adult coloring books and Bob Dylan are great!). As our language continues to evolve, maybe in the future, a visual artist can win a the Pulitzer Prize for a work of art written in emoji?

5 thoughts on “i am going to start writing with more emoji

  1. Your emojis rock!

    1. thanks Rene! you should make some chicken emojis. i know they would be awesome!!

  2. As always, you invite me to think more deeply about stuff! I am working with young kids (K–3) who have few language skills–everything is either okay, cool, or nasty, very few shades or nuances of meaning. I like visual language but also worry that emojis can never be as expressive as the words we’ve developed over the last several thousand years. At least not the emojis I see on Facebook. I do like yours, though, Ken!

    1. hi Jane! your kids sound like teenagers…maybe they are advanced for their age, lol! i was before the digital revolution, so I remember some aspects of life before our culture had adopted new technologies. I’m very interested in the trade offs we make for these ‘conveniences’. i agree that emojis aren’t nearly expressive as words. I was just telling a friend that i would always rather read the book than watch the movie. (but i DO read the book on a kindle)

      1. I think the kids I’m working with are relatively unaffected by technology–they are very poor and many do not have tv service because the cable bill hasn’t been paid or the tv fell off the dresser (true stories), and very few have a computer at home, though all have seen cell phones. They are mostly neglected and unused to being asked questions or speaking in sentences–when I ask what they thought about the story we just read, it is usually a one-word answer. In trying to get them to explore language, it occurs to me they will love emojis and also texting, when they become familiar with those things. This might not be bad for most people, but for people with poor language skills and little change to develop them, I wonder. As for me, I like both books and movies! And listening to audiobooks and reading “graphic novels,” which we used to call comic books and demean as only for kids.

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