The rise and rise of visual language

In celebration of World Emoji Day, Apple have teased us with a preview of 56 new emojis poised for release later this year.

If you’re one of the many millions who use Emoji like it’s your mother tongue, and you think a text isn’t complete without the addition of a crying cat, a loaf of bread or a smiley poo, then this is great news. 

But Emoji isn’t short of detractors. There are those who argue that every new addition to the Emoji dictionary, represents another nail in the coffin of articulate written communication. They say that the more we express ourselves through Emoji (‘e’ meaning ‘picture’ and ‘moji’ meaning character), the less adept we’ll become with language, and, more worryingly, that our thoughts will become confined to ideas that can only be expressed in a handful of pixels. 

It’s not hard to see why linguaphiles would feel uneasy at the news that The Complete Works of Shakespeare have been translated into Emoji to make them more accessible to today’s teenagers, or that the Oxford English Dictionary not only declared the word ‘emoji’ its ‘word of the year’ in 2013, but then bestowed the same accolade upon an actual emoji (officially, the "face with tears of joy") two years later.

The Oxford English Dictionary declared the word ‘emoji’ its ‘word of the year’ in 2013, then bestowed the same accolade upon an actual emoji two years later. 

For many, the rise of Emoji is confirmation of our ‘dumbing down’; our inexorable slide towards an intellectual Doomsday. But, for us at Scriberia, we’re more optimistic. In fact, we think it raises some interesting points.

Perhaps it goes without saying but, once more for the record: We love visual communication. We make a living telling stories visually, and we spend a lot of time extolling the advantages of simple visual communication over the written or the verbal.

We love it because of its simplicity, its ability to dispense with ambiguity, and to solidify abstracts into concrete concepts. Sometimes that’s exactly what’s required, and in those instances, it’s far from inferior to the written word.

We capture, clarify and communicate ideas through pictures... when you can convey something complex in a simple picture, you speak a universal language.

Every day, our team captures, clarifies and communicaties ideas through pictures. Nothing as generic as an emoji, of course. But the point is, when you can convey something complex in a simple picture, you speak a universal language.

When the Emoji keyboard first appeared, we didn’t need lessons or a phrase book because it provided us with a language in which we’re all already fluent (well, maybe that’s putting it a bit strongly! We admit there are a few emojis that don’t make a lot of sense to us, but this video helps). 

Now that so much of our communication takes place in texts or on social media platforms where brevity is key, emojis, which express common thoughts and feelings in a single character, are practical and perfectly suited to the task.

So, while we don’t advocate ditching written language for Emoji (nor ditching Scriberia for Emoji, for that matter!), and we don’t think Shakepeare’s Complete Works should be reduced to a series of daggers, ghosts and broken hearts, we know pictures can play a valuable role in clear, engaging, concise communication - in every country in the world, and between them.

Concise wasn’t Shakespeare’s aim, nor should it have been. But when you have an idea that you want to share, there’s nothing dumb about communicating a language that everyone understands.