Exploring Google's New Black-and-Blobby Emoji Font

Exploring Google's New Black-and-Blobby Emoji Font

Last week Google launched a brand new emoji-focused font: Noto Emoji. Monochrome and minimalist, the font renders emojis as simply as possible and also introduces a series of new blob-inspired designs. The entire set is now viewable on Emojipedia.

While announcing the launch of Noto Emoji font, Google's Jennifer Daniel (the current chairperson of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee) explained the rationale behind the creation of the minimalist font:

Over time, emoji have become more detailed. Instead of representing broad concepts there has been a trend to design emoji to be hyper realistic.

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.

It was also explained that this font can be modified in the same way as all standard fonts:

Noto Emoji works like any other font you might use: You can change any character's color, size and weight.
Above: an animation displaying Noto Emoji designs across different weights and colors. Source: Google.

Those familiar with Google's emoji set will have recognized that many of Noto Emoji's designs are derived from the latest version of that emoji set, which is used across Google platforms and Android devices.

However, when presented with attempting to represent people emojis with different skin tones and gender presentations, the team came to a blob-based conclusion:

It simply didnโ€™t look right to replace color with hash marks or polka dots. And that my dear is how the blobs came back.

Instead of attempting to represent people emojis across three different gender presentations, each with five skin tone modifier options, each of these emojis have been given the exact same gender-neutral monochromatic design: either as blobs or as humanoid silhouettes.

Many of these designs are directly drawn from Android 6.0.1's emoji set, which was the last major emoji update to feature blob people emojis before they were updated in Android 7.0, enable them to support gender ZWJ sequences.

Examples of the blobs include ๐Ÿ’‡ Person Getting Haircut, ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer, and๐Ÿ’ƒ Woman Dancing (simply called "Dancer" at the time), while examples of the silhouettes are โ›น๏ธ Person Bouncing Ball, ๐Ÿคน Person Juggling, and ๐Ÿคธ Person Cartwheeling.

Soon after the introduction of skin tone and gender-specifying sequences, the Google emoji set was completed redesigned in 2017's Android 8.0, removing the blob designs from even the smileys.

This is not the first time the blobs have experienced a revival outside of Google's mainline emoji designs.

In 2021 Google's Gboard Emoji Kitchen feature, which allows Android users to send merged or elaborated sticker versions of Googleโ€™s emoji designs, revived the blobs as options amongst its support emoji set.

Above: Gboard's Emoji Kitchen displaying a blob-version of the ๐Ÿฅบ Pleading Face emoji.

However, the Emoji Kitchen has yet to provide support to any flag, gesture, or person emoji. Therefore the Noto Emoji font provides certain person emojis with blob-based representation for the very first time, including ๐Ÿง” Person: Beard, ๐Ÿง“ Older Person, ๐Ÿง• Woman with Headscarf, ๐Ÿง– Person in Steamy Room.

Many of these are fantasy creatures, such as ๐ŸงŸ Zombie, ๐Ÿงš Fairy, ๐Ÿง Elf, ๐Ÿง› Vampire from 2017's Emoji 5.0, and the ๐ŸงŒ Troll emoji from late 2021's Emoji 14.0 recommendations.

In fact, all of the brand new Emoji 14.0 recommendations are featured in the Noto Emoji set, including smileys such as ๐Ÿซ  Melting Face and ๐Ÿฅน Face Holding Back Tears alongside the likes of ๐Ÿซถ Heart Hands, ๐Ÿซฆ Biting Lip, and ๐Ÿ› Playground Slide.

As with many other gender-specifying emojis, Emoji 14.0's ๐Ÿซ„ Pregnant Person and ๐Ÿซƒ Pregnant Man emojis both share the same design as Emoji 3.0's ๐Ÿคฐ Pregnant Woman, while the

In providing support for Emoji 14.0, Noto Emoji supports all 3,633 emoji designs recommended by Unicode thus far, albeit with considerable design duplication across skin tone modifier and gender-specifying ZWJ sequences like those highlighted above.

One additional aspect of the Noto Emoji worth exploring is how its designers opted to represent the different geographic flag emojis. Quoting Google's Jennifer Daniel once more:

You can't simply convert flags into black and white. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Finland and Sweden. We could redraw the flags but that puts them at risk of being incorrect. Instead, we leveraged the ISO's country codes.

Therefore all country flags lay bear their two-letter ISO codes within a curved flag outline.

While this may appear odd for many emoji users, it will be familiar to those on Microsoft devices. Microsoft has never supported emoji designs for flag emoji sequences, instead simply displaying their component two-letter (e.g. ๐Ÿ‡บ Regional Indicator Symbol Letter U and ๐Ÿ‡ธ Regional Indicator Symbol Letter S for the ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Flag: United States).

Meanwhile, for the three flag tag sequences that are recommended for general interchange (RGI) by Unicode, letter codes appear to have been editorially selected by the font's designers.

These are "GB" for ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ England (seemingly derived from "Great Britain"), "SCT" for ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ณ๓ ฃ๓ ด๓ ฟ Scotland, and "CYM" for ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ท๓ ฌ๓ ณ๓ ฟ Wales (taken from the country's Welsh language name, Cymru).

The choice of "GB" was quizzed by one Twitter user, given that Great Britain refers to the landmass that contains England, Scotland, and Wales.

Meanwhile, another user joked around using variable weights with the ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ช Flag: Montenegro flag:

๐Ÿ“ถ Release

The Noto Emoji font is available now on Google Fonts.

It is free to download and is licensed under the Open Font License, meaning it can be used freely in products & projects - print or digital, commercial or otherwise.

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