Choosing, approving new emojis is more complicated than you think

It's almost impossible to go a day without seeing an emoji. There are the favorites, like the heart, prayer hands, and of course, the wink. But have you ever wondered where they come from?

Via video chat, we met with Greg Welch, vice president of the Unicode Consortium, which controls which emojis we get, and on what platforms.

“[The Unicode Consortium] is a bunch of volunteers who get together and say, 'How are we going to ensure that computers around the world can exchange information, texts, and characters, and have it all work and be consistent?'” Welch explained.

Basically, using computer code, they ensure emojis sent from different phones on different services are all uniform. They also approve almost 70 new emojis every year.

“We get proposals from all over the world. Some people want more animals, some people want more hand gestures,” he said. “We look at how it will be interpreted, how widely used will it be, can you distinguish it? One of the real challenges is drawing something identifiable at emoji scale."

While not an official language, in many ways emojis are changing the way people communicate. 

“You think, 'My God, we are sitting here directly participating in one of the most important advancements in human communication that’s happened in centuries or millennia, and that's pretty cool,'” offered Welch.

New emojis are typically released in the first months of each year. According to, 75 new emojis were release in 2019, including a flamingo, sloth, yawning person, person in a wheelchair, prosthetic arm and leg, garlic, waffle, underwear, ice cube, and banjo.

New emoji candidates for 2020 may include proposed additions such as fondue, mammoth, worm, and hook, according to