Love ‘em or hate ‘em, emoji have become a key part of the way that many of us communicate, and that makes representation vitally important to the way they’re designed. With this in mind, Google is releasing 53 new emoji that work to be more gender inclusive.
In an exclusive, Fast Company reported Tuesday that the new emoji will be neither expressly male nor female, but gender ambiguous. The emoji reportedly underwent many iterations in order to avoid characteristics that could be interpreted as those of a man or a woman, opting instead for fluid hairstyles and style choices.
For example, a swimmer emoji wears what appears to be a body suit rather than a swimsuit or no shirt at all, and a merperson is depicted with crossed arms rather than with a shell bra or no covering at all. A gender-inclusive vampire, meanwhile, is shown with a stylistically ambiguous hairdo and neck ornament. Others include a zombie, a genie, and emoji depicting various athletic activities.
According to visuals of the emoji shared with Gizmodo, the company appears to still be tinkering with specific details of the characters, including changes in hairstyle or clothing.
Jennifer Daniel, a designer at Google who also sits on the Unicode Consortium, told Fast Company that in terms of new emoji design, the company is shifting away from expressly male or female details, which is certainly one answer to the issue of inclusivity and an ever-expanding list of thousands of emoji from which to choose.
“Gender is complicated,” Daniel told the magazine. “It is an impossible task to communicate gender in a single image. It’s a construct. It lives dynamically on a spectrum. I personally don’t believe there is one visual design solution at all, but I do believe to avoid it is the wrong approach here. We can’t avoid race, gender, any other number of things in culture and class. You have to stare it in the face in order to understand it. That’s what we’re trying to do – to [find] the signifiers that make something feel either male or female, or both male and female.”
An important point that Fast Company made is that sending these emoji outside of Android, such as to iOS, will translate them to either male or female equivalents — for now, at least, until other companies create their own gender-inclusive emoji.
A spokesperson for Google said the emoji are now available on Android Q Beta for any of the phone models listed here. They will roll out to everyone else with Android Q, which is slated for a fall release.