Microsoft Design
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Microsoft Design

An Emoji For Your Thoughts

Why we refreshed our 1800+ emoji to support the new landscape of work

A video celebrating the diversity of shapes and expressions in our new emoji system.

Embracing the power of play

Even before the pandemic obscured the lines between work and life, notions of professionalism had been evolving toward emotional honesty and playfulness. To ensure our new designs reflected this, design researcher Meghan Stockdale worked closely with us to rethink graphical expressions of professionalism. Through primary and secondary research, she focused on the concept of play as a catalyst for tapping into our best work and most honest selves. She cites Stuart Brown’s wonderful book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, as a particular influence for her.

This image showcases our use of an imperfect circle for the shape of a head. People aren’t perfect, so why should our graphical representations be?
Here are concept sketches for new emoji we’re creating to help communicate the realities of hybrid work. From left to right: multi-tasking, you’re on mute, no camera day, parenting-while-working, the pajama suit.

Innately fun, innately Fluent

Trust and clarity were guiding principles for us throughout this process. We wanted people to trust that our new emoji style would recognize their intentions and reflect their humanity. People aren’t perfect, and there is beauty in our originality, which is why we chose an imperfect circle to be the silhouette shape for a head.

This video clip shows our modular perspective. By leveraging specific eyes, mouths and head shapes across the board, we created a unified set of facial features that can scale while maintaining a consistent look and feel.
When you pay attention to the details, the ordinary can become extraordinary. The crab emoji pictured here exemplifies this through bold, beautiful colors and chunky, graphic shapes.
For the refresh, we couldn’t resist transforming our flat, standard paperclip into the beloved Clippy.

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