• Press Releases

    Hijab And Interracial Couple Emoji Images Acquired By

    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum For Permanent Collection

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    Jennifer 8. Lee





    New York, N.Y. — The images from the hijab and interracial couple emoji proposals have been acquired by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum as part of the institution’s expanding digital collection. The acquisition follows similar ones by other prominent museums documenting the important cultural role of emoji designs, including the 2016 acquisition of the original DoCoMo emoji set by the Museum of Modern Art for its permanent digital collection, and the 2018 acquisition of the proposed mosquito emoji design by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.


    The hijab emoji, officially called “person with a headscarf,” was originally submitted in late 2016 to the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization based in Mountain View, California, which oversees the emoji standard. It arrived for use on phones and computers the next year. The inclusion of an emoji with a hijab was followed closely in the Muslim world and was initiated by Rayouf Alhumedhi of Saudi Arabia, who was 15 at the time and living in Berlin. She was selected as a TIME magazine Most Influential Teen of 2017. Among the creators listed for the acquisition is Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit.


    The interracial couple emoji, officially submitted as “inter-skintone couple” on the proposal, was presented to Unicode in 2018 and arrived on devices last year, in 2019, offering the first opportunity to combine multiple skin tones in a single emoji. The interracial couple emoji builds on digital skin-tone work done by Katrina Parrott, a Houston-based entrepreneur and mother who was inspired to advocate for a range of skin tones on emoji after hearing her daughter lament that she couldn’t properly represent herself. Tinder, the Los Angeles-based mobile-app company, supported the creation of the interracial couple emoji, and is listed among the creators in the Cooper Hewitt acquisition. The interracial couple emoji campaign was also honored with a 2019 Webby Award, and as a finalist in the Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards in two categories, general excellence and graphic design.


    The acquisitions were coordinated by Emojination, a five-year-old grassroots group that promotes inclusive and representative emoji under the motto, “emoji by the people, for the people.” The original images for both proposals were created by Aphee Messer, a Chicago-based graphic designer.


    “In 2020, the guidance images for Person With Headscarf Emoji and Inter-skintone Couple Emoji entered the permanent collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum,” said Andrea Lipps, Associate Curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. “These are the first emoji acquired into the museum’s burgeoning digital collection and represent continued improvements in emoji’s vocabulary, demonstrating the growth of inclusion and representation among users, couples, and communities in thoughtfully designed pictographs.”


    The work of Rayouf Alhumedhiand Katrina Parrott are featured in a new documentary, The Emoji Story, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival as Picture Character and is being released virtually to theaters on December 18, 2020, and to video-on-demand services such as iTunes on December 22, 2020. “We wanted to highlight these women whose passionate advocacy impacted billions of keyboards worldwide and reframed how people saw themselves represented on the ‘small screen,’ ” said Jennifer 8. Lee, a producer of The Emoji Story and co-founder of Emojination.


    The acquisition of a digital asset means that Cooper Hewitt has been granted a nonexclusive license to reproduce and disseminate the images to the public including archiving, uploading, electronically storing and transmitting for exhibition and educational purposes.





    Jennifer 8. Lee, Emojination — jenny@emojination.org

    Rayouf Alhumedhi, Emojination — rayoufahumedhi@gmail.com

    Laurie Bohlk, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum — bohlkl@si.edu

    Tinder — press@gotinder.com

    Sisi Cronin, The Emoji Story — sisi@sicilypublicity.com


    About Emojination

    Emojination is a five-year-old grassroots group whose motto is “emoji by the people, for the people” and strives for more representative and inclusive emoji. It has helped usher through over 100 new emoji to the keyboard over the last several years including HIJAB, AREPA, BUBBLE TEA, LLAMA, MOSQUITO, SIGN, MIRROR, LADDER, DUMPLING, TOOTHBRUSH, BEAVER, HIPPOPOTAMUS, and INTERRACIAL COUPLE. It has partnered with Tinder, GE, Quip, Timberland, and is supported by Adobe. Among the popular emoji that Emojination successfully advocated for inclusion in 2020 were SOAP and MICROBE.


    About Tinder

    Tinder was introduced on a college campus in 2012 and is the world’s most popular app for meeting new people. Available in 190 countries and 40+ languages, it has been downloaded more than 400 million times and led to 55 billion matches. Tinder has 6.6 million subscribers and is the highest grossing non-gaming app globally.


    About Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

    Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications, and online resources inspire, educate, and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 210,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3-D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world. Cooper Hewitt knits the digital into experiences to enhance ideas, extend reach beyond museum walls, and enable greater access, personalization, experimentation, and connection. For more information, visit www.cooperhewitt.org or follow @cooperhewitt on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.