At times, words seem insufficient — when the feelings of fear, humiliation, fatigue, or discomfort appear to be too overwhelming to express in written language — and one must resort to other means of expression.
And it’s at this point that the melting face emoji appears.
Despite the fact that it is dissolving into a puddle, the face remains frozen in place with a content half-smile. It is one of 37 new emojis authorized this year by the Unicode Consortium, the body that oversees the standards for digital language. Saluting face, dotted line face, and a disco ball are some of the other emojis that made the cut as well.
The introduction of these new emojis will take place throughout the course of the following year. However, the melting face has already gained a following on social media, where it is seen as a graphic depiction of the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating psychological toll.
Jennifer Daniel and Neil Cohn came up with the idea for the dissolving face back in 2019. The two became acquainted via their shared love for visual language. Mr. Cohn is an associate professor of cognition and communication at Tilburg University, and Ms. Daniel, who uses the pronouns they and them, is the head of the Unicode emoji subcommittee and a creative director at Google. Ms. Daniel uses the pronouns they and them.
Cohn said that many of the most effective face emojis “rely on norms that already exist in other areas in visual culture, and one of the major drivers of this is comics or manga,” adding that comics and manga are “one of the main drivers of this.” He also pointed out that many of the facial emojis from the original emoji set are based on manga expressions, which he found interesting.
An artist called Shigetaka Kurita from Japan came up with the idea for the first emojis in 1999, drawing inspiration from the manga genre. Text-based communication was made easier with the use of shorthand; NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese mobile phone provider, imposed a 250-character restriction on messages sent via their mobile internet service, thus being concise was essential for getting one’s idea through quickly. In addition, the Museum of Modern Art has acquired the original set of 176 emojis created by Mr. Kurita, which is now part of its permanent collection.
Even in the absence of character limitations, emojis may still be used to express emotions with more ease, speed, and adaptability than words alone can.
The dissolving face is not an exception to this rule. More literally, it may be used to describe the feeling produced by, for example, a malfunctioning air conditioner. To put it another way, it may be used to express how one feels after an awkward encounter with a crush, the fatigue of living through an outbreak of a pandemic or even a sense of humor.