Design, Behavior & Social Interaction

An investigation in human communication across physical and digital methods.

Jessica Nip
Jan 18, 2018 · 7 min read
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Initial Concept

Beginnings of Emojis

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ASCII art was the original source of graphical representation using text characters, until emoticons were popularized by Fahlman (CMU researcher) in 1982, when he proposed the use of :-) and :-(. Today, we see a range of emoji designs along with “reactions” available on many social media platforms, especially Facebook.

Psychology of Emojis

Psychologist World

“the meaning that one person associates with an emoticon can be lost on — even completely different to — the reader’s understanding of it.”

voice modulation, intonation and the nuances of body language, which tend to convey our emotions, are lost in text messaging, where the written word is the only available medium to express ourselves.”

“A limited choice of emoticons restricts the range of emotions that we can express, and does not allow for the subtle nuances or strengths of emotion that we experience. Facebook’s ‘reactions’ feature, for example, restricts a user’s responses to one of just six emojis — a varied but incomplete representation of feelings. Both emoticons and emotions also reduce the need to develop the written skills needed to express oneself in the absence of such shorthand forms of communication.”


Emojis providing more context to developing appropriate responses.

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Emoji Literature

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Book from the Ground

Designing A Brief Interview

Interview Results

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Designer A

Designer A —

😅: awkward smile; usually trying to justify something e.g. “sorry I’m late”

😂: great for jokes and memes

😆: great for jokes and memes

😁: an universal smile applicable for most people

👋: “hi” gesture for nicer, quirkier impression

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Designer B

Designer B —

💖: tackier version of original heart, feels more sparkly and special

❤️: heart for more casual settings

💕: fun hearts to change things up

💃🏾: likes the match of skin color, having fun

😍: used when showing appreciation for things

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Designer C

Designer C—

❤️: lots of love everywhere

🙃: upside-down smiley feels quirky and dynamic, not just a simple individual

😊: enjoys rosy cheeks smiley as feels there is physical resemblance with self

🤤: drooling emote feels offensive, kind of enjoy it

👌🏼: ‘ok’ a lot

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Designer D

Designer D—

😂👍😁😊👌: tend to be best for group chats, enjoys playing with racially diverse emojis, joking around and being sarcastic

💪: likes how flexible flex emoji is, can be used in many scenarios from encouraging others to working out

Interview Findings

Emojis can be used as….

  • Response dictators — suggestive of how people should react to a message (same textual elements, different emojis can generate different responses)
  • Indicator of positive engagements — emojis tend not to be used during lowlights/serious scenarios

Project Directions

Critique from Peers & Dan

  • What are the limitations of emojis? Can we design a way to better communicate?
  • Unicode guidelines?
  • Create a communication feature?

Further Investigations

  • Can emojis, or graphic text be more genuine?
  • Can we leverage typing speed, finger pressure, gaze and chat-use time, and translate these forms of data into moods/feelings for others?
  • Should others be able to better understand your thinking behind the screen?
  • Changing colors of chat rooms that reflect mood/feelings?
  • Enjoyment of conversations/relationships — presence. How to recreate feelings of presence? Reducing features such as ‘active X hours ago’ + ‘read’ messages that’s suggestive of a ‘bad friend’?

Speculations of the Future in Texting

Further Peer Discussion

  • > Haptic ‘reacts’ as option — sending friends temperature, vibration, etc. or in future AR/VR adaptations, send hugs, pats, 360 all around sound messages, etc.
  • Do people want more transparency in the feelings of people they’re talking to?
  • Can we send invitations for people to opt-in to ‘serious’ conversations? How do we design spaces for serious, real relationship building?
  • Location — when app knows you’re somewhere else, makes recommendations to catch up with people?
  • Technology as a middle man for ‘people planning’?
  • Though some may argue texts are less dynamic
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