When designer Shigetaka Kurita came up with the first emoji collection 19 years ago, he likely didn't think it would lead to movies, merchandise, and a universal mode of communication that's grown to include more than 2500 pictographs. Now, fans of the symbols have a chance to appreciate the original set of 176 without tracking down a pager from the 1990s. The publisher Standard Manuals is releasing a hardcover book of the classic emojis with a digital keyboard, and they're raising funds for the project on Kickstarter.
The emoji (from "e," Japanese for picture, and "moji," Japanese for character) first appeared on pagers from the Japanese mobile provider NTT DoCoMo in 1999. The 12-pixel-by-12-pixel designs were popular, but not as phenomenal as the emojis that began appearing on smartphone keyboards about a decade later.
Without that first generation, we may not have gotten many of the symbols that come standard in every emoji pack today. Unicode referred to the original 176 when building its emoji set; that means all the emojis pictured below date back to before the smartphone era.
The Museum of Modern Art acquired Kurita's emoji set in 2016, establishing its status as a vital piece of digital history. The new book, titled Emoji, includes an essay from MoMA senior curator Paola Antonelli and architecture and design collection specialist Paul Galloway in addition to the full-color recreations of each emoji. For those interested in the technical side of things, the book features the black-and-white emoji design against a pixel grid with the original technical data from DoCoMo.
Standard Manual is also offering the original emojis as they were meant to be seen. Each pledge of $75 or more to their Kickstarter campaign comes with a copy of the book plus a free download of the old-school emoji keyboard. Backers have until the end of May to donate, with shipping estimated for October of this year.
All images courtesy of Standard Manuals