The Original Emoji, by Shigetaka Kurita

In 1999 the Japanese telecom NTT DOCOMO released the original 176 emoji (e meaning “picture” and moji “character”) for mobile phones and pagers. Designed on a simple 12 × 12 pixel grid by Shigetaka Kurita, emoji enhanced the visual interface for DOCOMO’s devices and facilitated the rise of the nascent practice of text messaging and mobile email. [..] Drawing on varied sources including manga, Zapf dingbats, and commonly used emoticons, Kurita’s set included illustrations of weather phenomena, pictograms, and a range of expressive faces. [..] Kurita’s emoji planted the seeds for the explosion of a new visual language.