Shigetaka Kurita Emojis in MoMA


This post comes more as a news post than a good work. I admit it but it had to be done.

At first glance, reading the news, I personaly didn’t get it. I’ll be  honest. I use emojis on whatsapp. Aside from that I despise emojis. For me they just add a bit of visual humor to my messages. And once more, being honest, I’m a funny guy even without emojis.

Now, from that to giving a space at the MoMA to emojis is a really big step. One I’m not willing to make right now. It’s too soon.

Then I read the article and from the history I get it now but…. I stand my ground. IT’S TOO SOON!

Emoji have become part of MoMA’s collection, legitimizing them as works of art.


“These 12 x 12 pixel humble masterpieces of design planted the seeds for the explosive growth of a new visual language,” wrote Paul Galloway, an architecture and design collection specialist at MoMA, in a Medium post about the acquisition. “Filling in for body language, emoticons, kaomoji, and emoji reassert the human in the deeply impersonal, abstract space of electronic communication.”



The emoji MoMA decided to collect aren’t the same symbols you and I see on our phones today; they’re the work of designer Shigetaka Kurita who, in 1999, developed 176 pixelated images for the Japanese telecommunications company NTT DOCOMO, which desired a more compelling interface for its “i-mode” mobile Internet software. They remained relatively obscure in western culture until 2010 when the Unicode Consortium—the organization overseeing how text is coded into computer-readable language—translated the symbols. Today, those graphics have evolved into the hundreds of characters we recognize today.

This emojis are going to be exhibited alongside Picassos and van Goghs, the acquisition fits in with the museum’s broader strategy to collect interaction design, interfaces, information systems, and communication devices—works of design that shape human behavior just as much as physical objects. In 2010, the museum opened the floodgates for this type of collecting by acquiring the “@” symbol and in the years since, it’s become more experimental by welcoming video games into its coffers.


“Our job, since our beginning, has been to reflect the art of our time,” says Paul Galloway, an architecture and design collection specialist at MoMA. “In the 1930s that meant films, photographs, and cubist paintings. Today, an enormous amount of creative energy is manifested through the digital realm, whether that be graphic design, video games, interactive software, or emoji. If we want to reflect the art of our time in 2016, we must feature works of digital nature.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s