How making small icons changed my whole life. Emoji Design for Apple

How making small icons changed my whole life.  Emoji Design for Apple

The designer's story Apple about how the first emoji were created

I want to tell you the story of how I was an intern and with a mentor created unique emoji for Aplle. We came up with a different way of communication between people around the world! Something amazing happens when friendship and design come together. It was a vision that made us become loyal friends, and small icons were a key element of this success.

It all happened in the summer of 2008, when, a year later, I was supposed to get my degree in graphic design for my studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the same summer, I flew for an internship at a company Apple, to the team with which I so wanted to meet and get to know each other as soon as possible. One could only imagine the amount of overwhelming happiness and pleasant excitement when I flew to Cupertino in order to get to work. My heart fluttered uncontrollably and I was eager to find out what project awaits me, what my team is, where will be my place, for which I will work.

In general, I was a trainee, and my mentor was Raymond. In the three months we worked together, we created some of the most widely used emojis at this time: heart, party, smiley with tears of joy and a pile of excrement, and 460 more unique icons. This allowed me to become a full-fledged employee Apple.

Meeting with the team

Soon after arriving and meeting with the team, I was handed my project. I was still trying to figure out the assignment I had just received. When I was asked whether I know what a smiley is (and I did not know this at the time, like most people living on earth), I replied that I do not know.

Moments later, they explained to me what this unfamiliar word meant and that I had to develop hundreds of them. At that moment, I looked into the distance along the corridor and said to myself 'This is not a rebus or a task in the layout, these are bright unique illustrations'.

And then after three months, Raymond and I created many faces, flags, flowers, animals, food, clothing, symbols, gestures, and more. But long before all this was over, I had to learn how to create icons in the Apple style.

How making small icons changed my whole life.  Emoji Design for Apple

Raymond designed the face with tears of joy and a bunch of poop, and I designed the heart and the party.

Emoji creation process

Raymond taught me everything there is to know about icon design. At that time, I had no idea that he, my mentor, was one of the best icon illustrators in the world and at the same time he was extremely modest. In other words, I was sitting next to one of the best icon painters in the world, and at that moment when I was just starting to implement my ideas, I wanted to take his brain.

As we worked, we kept telling each other stories from our childhoods, growing up in South Florida, including our trips to the countryside in search of inspiration.

My first icon was a wedding ring. Since it had complex textures such as metal and cut stone, it was not an easy job for a beginner. It took me a whole day to design this ring. But with experience, I could already do two in one day, then three, and more.

No matter how quickly I could come up with one element, I was constantly refining the details and this allowed the details to appear: the direction of the trunk, the glare that appeared on different fruits and vegetables, veins appeared on the leaves of hibiscus, a leather ball for football was sewn, the details were endless. By zooming in and out, I tried very hard to capture it all in every pixel, because every detail mattered so much.

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And after three months I was looking at hundreds of emojis on my screen. There was also our first image of Steve Jobs, which created a shared experience of suspense and success. The work was approved for launch. And if Steve told me that this is a great job, I would say that the craft lesson was not in vain.

It happened that our smiley turned out to be more comical than expected, and some of them even have a background. For example, Raymond reused the 'happy swirl' as the top of an ice cream cone. Now that you know about it, I bet you will never forget this fact.

Another example was the order in which we draw emoji. We left the difficult ones for later, so the dancer in the red dress showed up towards the end of the internship, as she was the one who continued to sing and dance. You can thank Raymond for her ruffled dress as the final result. The woman's turquoise dress with a brown sash was what I drew earlier in this process. I was inspired by the color palette and proportions of a dress that my sister created in real life that same year.

So, from funny backstories to the realization that we attended high schools less than 30 miles apart, our shared past and the days when we got together made us tears of joy. Ten years after my internship, Raymond and I are still filling the room with laughter. All this makes emoticons unconditionally successful on a global scale, and our friendship has been stronger for many years.

How making small icons changed my whole life.  Emoji Design for Apple

End of internship

Shortly after my internship at Apple emojis were released in November 2008 in Japan. And this year will be exactly ten years since the initial launch of Apple emoji.

At that time, I had no idea that in a few months after the end of our project, this would lead to a revolution in the way of communication of all mankind. And the fact that emoji will be used almost everywhere. Literally everywhere: cartoons, toys, stickers, clothes, bags, chocolates, music videos, books, jewelry, films.

I also want to note that there are other designers Apple dealing with emoji. For example, Ollie Wagner, who created about a dozen original kits after my internship ended and many others in the years that followed.

Well, me and Raymond are the very first emoji designers Apple responsible for the first original batch. We have drawn up to 500 characters and have been awarded a US patent for that. Ten years ago, Raymond and I did a great job, we were working on one of my favorite and exciting projects in our entire career.

This has been the reason for me to get up early in the morning since 2008, since then it has become a habit for me. I woke up eagerly even on the days when I had to carry my bike through three long flights of stairs and I rode to work with a smile on my face. Now for me it is something magical and when I remember this significant experience a storm of emotions arises in my head.

How making small icons changed my whole life.  Emoji Design for Apple

And this is a gift from Raymond after my internship ended. He took the idea from what I created: orange, apple and eggplant

This is the kind of story that needs to be shared, I would advise any designer to look for a reason to get up in the morning, let it become a habit to find their own, even a humble mentor. Because magic happens when design and friendship create something amazing.

After each emotion I made, I learned something new, something different. With each new emotion he had invented, Raymond became an even greater friend. The stronger our friendship became, the better designer I became. In our case, friendship and design came together.

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