Pretty much everything you use to keep in touch with people on a daily basis—email, text, Twitter, Facebook—is lousy with tiny images known as emoji. Whether you use it to express a grin or a shrug or to take on bigger challenges, like summarizing movie plots using only the 722 available emoji, using anything with an Internet connection means you’ve seen a tiny yellow cat making the Scream face. But it’s really only been around in the States since 2008, when Google premiered its emoji for email. Fast Company published an oral history of the poop emoji, which started as an essential and inoffensive part of the Japanese emoji alphabet, and has since become a part of the modern-day cultural lexicon. As one of its creators points out, “It would be fascinating to see how many times in a day somebody processes an icon’s meaning. To be literate in modern culture you’re familiar with dozens, hundreds of icons—this thing to eject, this means low batteries, this means I have Wi-Fi.”
This oral history interviews five Google (and former Google) employees, including three engineers, who brought the humble poop emoji from Japan to the world. They discuss emoji’s beginnings in Japan in 1999, the battle to take it to America, and the specific evolution of the poop emoji itself. It’s a fascinating look at an absurd topic, and worth reading in its entirety.
Ryan Germick, lead of Google Doodle team: When you’re working in a really tiny space, building a communication tool and trying to express an idea for people who are going to look at it for fractions of a second, you’ve got to be really ruthless with how clear you are. My greatest contribution is probably the little flies flying around the . It brings it to life. It’s timeless. You could smell it. It’s in this moment.
Darick Tong, Google software engineer and American lead of its emoji project: Gmail’s version with the circling flies is, in my opinion, an excellent use of animation.