Redheads: Is This It?

Redheads: Is This It?

“I’ve been waiting forever for the ginger emoji and THIS is it?? Uh, hello? Redheads feel all the emotions, too.”

Self-confessed “feisty redhead” Becca Watters on Twitter wrote about her frustration with new emoji choices available upon the release of iOS 12.1 which included redheads amongst the 158 new emoji choices.

Becca was not alone with her gripes about the scope of ginger representation on the emoji keyboard.

Spokane news anchor Jen York echoed the sentiment:

#Gingers finally got an emoji!  Though, still not equal.  Redheads aren’t included in every other version of the human emojis. 🤦🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️💁🏼‍♀️🙅🏼‍♀️🙎🏼‍♀️  What gives @AppleSupport?

Other comments from redheads upon the release of iOS 12.1:

What do people want? According to these tweets and more: for every emoji to include a redhead option.

Most attention is given to new emojis when Apple updates iOS but it's the Unicode Consortium which is responsible for updates to the standard used to make emojis work across all platforms. Five different ways to consider new hair types or colors were considered by Unicode in January 2017.

Options considered ranged from a new skin tone modifier, through to recommending vendors display the somewhat redundant 👱‍♀️ Woman: Blond Hair and 👱‍♂️ Man: Blond Hair emojis with a strawberry-blonde / red haired appearance.

The option chosen was one that added emoji components for red hair, curly hair, white hair, and bald people.

Above: Bald, curly, red and white hair emojis added in 2018. Image: Apple designs / Emojipedia composite.

For redheads, the Emoji 11.0 release meant 12 emoji sequences:

Here's how these redhead options look on the iOS emoji keyboard as of October 2018:

Above: Redheads as displayed using iOS 12.1. One option for a Woman or Man with red hair, plus skin tones.

So why not add red hair as an option alongside every emoji? A good question.

Assuming all the new hair types added in 2018 were treated as equals (red hair, curly hair, white hair, and no hair), this would require assigning a single skin tone to each, or omitting skin tones altogether.

Here's how the new hair types might look alongside existing options if skin tones were not used:

Above: New hair options if they were added to existing choices on the iOS emoji keyboard. Image: Emojipedia mockup.

A bit odd, you might think - having new hair types buried under the default yellow skin tone at the end of the list. Not to mention the choices stretching wider than the latest iPhone XS screen.

If each new hair type were assigned a single skin tone, it doesn't get less odd. What color would you say people with bald heads should be, or those with white hair?

Above: New hair options if they were added to existing choices on the iOS emoji keyboard with each being assigned a skin tone. Image: Emojipedia mockup.

What's actually then being requested, if it's not any of the options above, is for every emoji to support tens of new options.

Something like this:

Above: Options for each emoji to have any of the new hair types. Image: Emojipedia mockup.

And you know what? That looks pretty cool. I bet people would love this.

The good news for those looking for increased hairmoji flexibility is that the above mockup showing 26 variations of 💁‍♀️ Woman Tipping Hand (52 if including a the 💁‍♂️ Man Tipping Hand, or 78 if including a gender inclusive option as well) are technically possible in future due to the way new hair colors have been implemented in the Unicode standard.

In the end it all comes down to priorities.

Each emoji takes up space on the emoji keyboard, uses memory on a device, and has the potential to bump other requests for representation such as diverse families, people with disabilities, gender inclusive options and more.

Every emoji list is a list of compromises. The question is where the priorities are, and where they should be.

For more on this, I looked at how competing demands from users, Unicode and vendors result in complex decision-making in this recent article for Medium's November issue: The New New.

We crave the new. We fear the new. But most of all, we need the new. There’s even a word for it: neophilia. With social and technological change creating competing visions of the future — many inspiring, many mind-blowing, some ominous, some downright frightening — it’s time to take a step back. From technology to culture, to sex, health, and business, Medium will predict what comes next in our latest issue, The New New.