Artist Ji Lee Creates Emoji For The Coronavirus Age

by Rudy Sanchez on 03/26/2020 | 2 Minute Read

Although the current coronavirus outbreak isn’t the first global pandemic in humanity’s history, its scale is unprecedented for the information age. While it's still early going for the crisis, designers and other creative folks have already begun to chronicle the COVID-19 times through art, and that includes modern, digital glyphs.

You know. Emoji.

Editorial photograph

The official emoji standard, which is left to technology vendors such as Apple to implement, is defined by the Unicode Consortium, and adding ‘rona emoji is probably not their most pressing issue at the moment. But that hasn’t stopped artist Ji Lee from designing an unofficial set of pictographs that millions around the world can seriously relate to. Lee’s work is based on Apple’s version of emoji and includes riffs on existing glyphs, as his “handwashing” emoji adds soap suds to the “praying” or “thanks” emoji. Some are funny, such as the addition of an empty toilet paper roll, while others are a visual reflection of concepts such as social distancing and staying at home. One is a call for a stop to coronavirus-motivated racism, in particular against those of Asian backgrounds.

Brief moments of levity are most certainly welcome in such stressful lives, but Lee’s work is also a reflection of how we communicate in the modern, interconnected, digital world. Assuming the world is still spinning and humanity still populates it hundreds of years from now, historians will ponder the meanings of our modern patois of gifs, emoji, and text, assuming our Slack channels survive the apocalypse.

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