Back to basics

This retro emoji ‘font’ brings us back to the beautiful basics

It's the same cat with heart eyes that you know and love, but this time with no colors or shading!

The inimitable Jennifer Daniel, a Unicode Emoji Subcommittee-Chair, wrote about a new effort to take emojis back to their humble roots. Before we had our gleaming set of 3,633 emoji characters like this cute little fly, or a weird bean, or the inimitable che vuoi pinched fingers. Emoji are introduced regularly, and their usage changes just like other slang (😂 is cheugy). Emoji are linguistics.

Our retina screens now show us the tears welling up in 🥺 and the details to convey the unconventional but sublime portrait of a bug playing the sax 🎷🐛. But despite all the bells and whistles of emoji in the 2020s, emoji expert Jennifer Daniel argues that we’ve lost a bit of the minimalist magic that emoji had in their early days. Back in 1999, a Japanese phone carrier supported 176 different 8-bit images: A little pixelated sun, a martini glass, and a slew of symbols.

No colors, no genders, just blobsNoto Emoji via Google Fonts

Emojis take on many of the same complexities of language: They convey euphemism (a 🍑 is not a peach), hyperbole (who’s really laugh-crying at their boss’s meme? 😂 ), and essence (🤠). But maybe that’s too big a task for teeny digital pictures. So she created a retro emoji font. “By removing as much detail as possible, emoji could be more flexible, representing the idea of something instead of specifically what is in front of you (that … is what your camera is for 😂)” she writes.

Unifying emoji into a consistent font eliminates the slight variations by carrier — an Android turtle is not an iOS turtle, you know? Plus, it’s retro, simple, and stylish 😎.

You can download the font from Google Fonts, here. It’s easy to embed into your website — just copy and paste a little HTML and CSS.