I recently noticed some new emojis on my iPhone which came with a new software update. Some were very strange indeed. I was (briefly) hooked, and started sending them on message threads thinking I was the wittiest man alive. I'm not. Any average 13-year-old girl is fluent in the language of emoji – it's been around for years – and can probably communicate with pictures alone. In fact, emojis in one form or another have been around for many, many years.
They are essentially hieroglyphs, and pre-date words and letter-form by millennia. Now, here we are in 2015, quite a few years after the ancient Egyptians were busy texting each other on slabs of limestone, still communicating with pictures. Indeed, we seem to be experiencing something of a cult renaissance in the technique. As mentioned at the top, Apple deem them popular enough to increase the available icons native to their latest high-tech iPhones and one (slightly loopy if you ask me) man in America even went as far as publishing an emoji translation of the classic novel Moby Dick. A thousand pictures telling a few thousand words. As ridiculous as that may seem, the book somehow made it into the library of congress in the States. Perhaps I'm too old to understand, but as amusing as emojis can be, they can also be very, very irritating. Why use an icon when a word would describe something far more accurately? But then, sometimes a smiley can help soften the tone of a tricky email. Of course, if used in the wrong context it can also irritate. Love them or hate them, they are undoubtedly an established part of our communications culture and look to be here to stay.
On balance, I'm a fan. I have to be. I'm a pictures person. Like anything in communications though, pictures should work with words in a complementary way, one enhancing the other, and emojis, gifs (see the ones we love here), iconography all have their place. I don't envisage a day where we are communicating with pictures alone. That would be a tragedy for the richness of the english language.
Pictures have the power to communicate even the most complex information too. Infographics use a mixture of words, pictures, icons and graphics to tell a story, explain a concept or sell a solution to a thorny problem.
You can learn more about how we at theblueballroom approach and harness the power of pictures in communication at one of our infographic workshops.