New Facebook Messenger Emojis are Stunning

Facebook has today released an update to its Messenger app for iOS and Android with a complete emoji overhaul.

A total of 1,180 emoji images is included. View them all here.

Notable changes include a wider representation of women, support for diversity of skin tone, and a stunning new design.

Where are they?

These new emoji designs are available exclusively in the Messenger app (update: and Messenger Web).

Facebook is still using its mix of older emoji designs for the desktop website, and native emojis in the regular Facebook app for mobile.

If (or when?) Facebook plans to roll out these new designs further is yet to be seen. I have reached out to Facebook for a comment on this.

Above: Facebook still has these emojis on the desktop website.

This update was first announced by Facebook yesterday, and rollout has started to the first Messenger users today.

As with many Facebook updates, this will be made available to different users at different times, and not necessarily at the same time as the update from the App Store / Google Play Store.

Design

Messenger's brand new emoji design uses gradients made of banded shades as a common element throughout the set.

This style provides depth and detail without resorting to the glossy appearance that Apple uses.

The new Messenger emojis remind me of the cel-shaded Zelda Wind Waker, which is in many ways a perfect fit for emoji.

Some aspects appear to be almost hand-drawn, such as the mouth on the 😬 grimacing face.

Facebook worked with veteran designers The Iconfactory1 on the Messenger Emoji set, and the result is really quite stunning.

These designs are cute, yet clear. The fine line between being flat, but not boring has been found.

Girl Power

The Unicode Standard does not specify the gender of most emojis, which allows vendors to choose from a male, female, or gender-neutral appearance.

In a clever move, Facebook has pre-empted proposals to allow female versions of popular emojis, and simply chosen to display many emojis as female instead of the more common male appearance.

Above: Surfer, Police Officer, and Runner display as female on Messenger.

In this update, Facebook overwhelmingly chooses women as the default gender, unless otherwise specified.

The following emojis are most commonly male on other platforms, but female in Messenger:

Of course this means that there aren't male versions of the above at this stage.

Modifiers

Modifiers are supported for skin tones, with the press-and-hold interface many are familiar with from iOS.

Above: Skin tone choices are now available. Image: Facebook.

The default hair color roughly matches choices made by Apple, with the hair for the type 3 skin tone being blonde, for no particular reason.

Above: Messenger now support skin tone modifiers.

Redheads continue to be exempt, unless you count the redheaded default emojis with yellow skin tone.

Faces

We're all fairly familiar with how each emoji face should look, and Messenger's emoji update doesn't pull any suprises.

Other than the unique design style, the actual characteristics of each smiley is easy to tell which it should be.

These are mostly in-line with choices Apple has made with their facial expressions2.

Consistency

When inside the Messenger app, the platform native emojis from iOS or Android will make way for Facebook's custom images.

The pitch Facebook makes here is that "emoji confusion" can be a thing of the past, at least within the closed walls of Messenger.

Incidentally, WhatsApp already achieves this by using Apple's emoji images on all platforms, including Android.

Changes

Every emoji has been changed in this set, making a changelog a bit redundant other than to say that nothing is left in common with the previous emoji images.

Gone are the "Facebook Blue" hand gestures, or the way the paw prints emoji showed as footprints. From Messenger, anyway.

💩

The Pile of Poo Emoji is the happiest I have seen yet. I just wanted to point this out.

Missing

This update is large, but stops short of including all the current emojis in the Unicode standard.

No emojis from Unicode 7.0 or higher are included, nor are some of the emojis from previous Unicode versions later given emoji status.

In practice, this means no 🏑 hockey, no 🛏 bed, no 🐿 chipmunk, and no 🤔 thinking face.

Flag support is limited to 42 flags, which is approximately how many iOS supported a year ago.

With the bulk of the work done, I suspect Facebook can get another release out this year which adds in the missing pieces.

It's a daunting task starting an emoji set from scratch, and no doubt this was complete when work began.

Here they are

I suggest keeping an eye on your Messenger app to see the latest emojis when they hit your phone, or browse the full set here.


  1. The Iconfactory have been busy, as they are also the team that Twitter worked with for Twemoji 1.0 and Twemoji 2.0.

  2. Except the 😵 dizzy face, which I have long believed should use the spiral-eyes as Windows has used for some time now.