Emoji: the first hardcover book + app of the original emoji
In 1999 Japan debuted the original 176 emoji. Now, we're releasing the first hardcover book and smartphone keyboard of these drawings.
In 2016, the Museum of Modern Art in New York made an unusual acquisition for their permanent collection: the world’s original emoji, designed by Shigetaka Kurita at NTT DOCOMO and released in Japan in 1999.
Now, almost two decades later, we are releasing the first hardcover book and smartphone keyboard of these drawings—the direct ancestors of the emoji we all use today.
Shigetaka Kurita designed the original emoji for the Japanese telecommunications giant NTT DOCOMO when he was just 25 years old. The name was created from the Japanese “e,” which means picture, and “moji,” which means character. At the time, Kurita and DOCOMO had no idea that their work would leave Japan, evolve, and eventually be used by billions of people on a daily basis, and revolutionize the way we communicate today.
“Various things influenced emoji. One was the pictogram. Pictograms are used as signs in many places in Japan like stations and public places. The second was the Japanese art of Manga, which uses graphics to express emotion. Lastly, it was Japanese magazines. All of these things that organize and communicate information came together to influence the creation of emoji.”
—Shigetaka Kurita, designer of emoji
The book, simply titled Emoji, studies and honors Kurita and DOCOMO’s creation, as well as the explosion across the globe of their unintentional works of art.
Emoji will present images of sketches and digital artwork with technical data from DOCOMO for each character. It will also include an introduction by Kurita and an essay by The Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) Paola Antonelli and Paul Galloway.
Four versions of each emoji will be included in the book: color 1:1 scale, enlarged in color, black and white with underlying grid, and black and white 1:1.
Along with the book, we are releasing a keyboard extension, available for download in the App Store and on Google Play, which will allow users to send these emoji—making them available on smartphones in the Western world for the very first time.
Backers will receive a free copy of the app, and it will be available for purchase to the public when the book ships.
1,000 books (and accompanying app) are available at an earlybird price. If you would like more than one book + app, select a bundled reward.
The emoji that launched in 1999 were only available in Japan, originally on the DOCOMO network. It took the western world 12 years to catch up—when in October 2010, Apple and Google adopted the Unicode Standard version 6.0, which released 722 emoji characters for iPhone and Android.
The emoji set has since grown to include over 1,000 characters, with constant new additions and varying designs for different providers. Along with the way, emoji have become commonplace tools of emotional expression—in the end, everyone is bilingual in emoji.
Unicode built off the original set, so many of the emoji we use today are direct descendants of Kurita's set.
The original 176 emoji were on display at MoMA from December 2016–March 2017 in a large format installation as a part of the Inbox exhibition series. MoMA's acquisition of emoji in 2016 signaled more traditional art institutions acknowledging untraditional works of art that have a significant impact on society.
“Shigetaka Kurita’s ingenious emoji for DOCOMO were the seeds of what grew into a new, global form of communication. This first in-depth examination of how and why Kurita’s emoji came into being will offer valuable insight into the power of design to shape human behavior.”
—Paul Galloway, Architecture & Design Collection Specialist, MoMA
Originally, we were approached by Kickstarter to create a smartphone keyboard extension of the original emoji after they were acquired by MoMA. We were intrigued by the idea but weren’t sure if we were the right choice. We asked if DOCOMO has any of the original emoji drawings, and after seeing the original sketches and files, we knew Kurita hadn’t had the attention he deserves for such a monumental contribution to communication design.
As designers, we’re fascinated by the decisiveness that Kurita displayed with the original emoji. Under tight technical limitations, he was able to implement a childlike simplicity into pictorial symbols that are often complex ideas. We see the emoji development being no different than designing a corporate symbol that needed to be faxed, engraved, or embroidered, even in the smallest of applications. If you’re a “minimalist”, emoji is the ultimate expression of graphic simplicity.
With the help of our Kickstarter backers, we’ll not only be able to produce the book honoring Kurita’s work, but also release the keyboard extension as originally proposed by Kickstarter and NTT DOCOMO.
Emoji will be a hardcover book wrapped in a green vinyl jacket, a typical Japanese book making technique. The cover board will be screenprinted with half of the 176 emoji, with the remainder printed on the back cover.
- 360 pages
- 8.3 × 11.8" / 210 × 300 mm
- Hardcover screenprinted with 176 emoji
- Translucent colored-vinyl jacket with silkscreened title
- CMYK + 1 Pantone® spot-color
- Two art-book quality paper stocks
- Exposed binding
- English / Japanese text
- Introduction by Shigetaka Kurita
- Essay by Paola Antonelli and Paul Galloway, MoMA
- Includes original and extended emoji set from 1999
- Full color
- Available for iOS and Android
- Free for backers of the project, paid after that
We will be printing the book with one of our trusted printers that we’ve worked with on past books, like the NYCTA and NASA Graphics Standards Manual reissues.
We take quality seriously. Because we are the publisher and designer, we are less constrained by budgets and don’t have to cut corners on quality that most regular publishers do. We're able to design the book exactly the way we want, not to how the publishing industry thinks the book should be designed.
Production of the keyboard extension will be handled by our close partner, Winfield & Co. Their company has produced interactive products for Samsung, Harvard University, Four Seasons Hotels, Google, AIGA, and more. They are enlisted to not only develop the extension, but also run maintenance as future operating systems are updated. Learn more about W&Co. at: www.winfieldco.com
In 2017, Standards Manual opened a bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. To their knowledge, it is the only specialty graphic design bookstore in New York City. Reed and Smyth are also founding partners of Order, a graphic design office. Emoji is the seventh title released by Standards Manual.
As graphic designers who have designed and printed numerous books ourselves, we appreciate high-quality publishing and know what it takes to produce high-quality books.
Our last three books were also funded on Kickstarter:
In addition to Kickstarter, we've also published a variety of other books through our imprint, Standards Manual.
Jesse Reed & Hamish Smyth
Crowdsourceress Alex Daly and Vann Alexandra
Jesse Reed, Hamish Smyth, Christian Mroczka
Edo Van Breeman, Johannes Winkler
Shigetaka Kurita, Alex Daly, Rachel Been, Paul Galloway, Edward M. Gómez, Fred Benenson, Nick Stover, Sam Bumbalo, Jessica Adams, Théo Münch, Kelly Angood, Taro Kodama, Yoshito Hasaka, NTT DOCOMO, Stephanie Pereira, Nami Sasaki
Most of all, thank you
Hamish & Jesse
Emoji artwork officially licensed to Standards Manual by NTT DOCOMO, Japan.
Emoji artwork, sketches, and trademarks © NTT DOCOMO.
Risks and challenges
The design of the book itself is nearly complete, and if funded, the essays will be commissioned. We will then compile the book, refine and tweak the design, and move to production. The keyboard app is also under development, and we will continue to refine and perfect it after the campaign.
Having designed and produced many books ourselves, we understand the process well and have already been working closely with printers to iron out any problems they anticipate before production.
We will be reviewing hard copy proofs of every page before printing. When the book is being printed, we will be visiting the printing plant to conduct a press check to ensure the color reproduction is faithful to the original.
- (32 days)