I knew there was a big moment for emoji—the smartphone pictographs that until recently were popular among only Japanese teenagers—when, instead of calling for my birthday, my mother texted a little cartoon cake. This visual alphabet, which includes much of the animal kingdom, the produce aisle, and the range of human emotions (plus a pile of feces with a face), now comes preloaded on the iPhone and presents a new frontier in texting, equally enticing to small children and slow-typing septuagenarians. Although several people worked on Apple’s emoji character set before the iPhone 3GS launched in Japan in 2009, the most prolific was Willem Van Lancker, then an intern, who created 400 of the original 500 characters. So I texted a few questions to him.
How and Got on Your