The convergence of emoji ✳️

Language evolves. No matter how annoyed people were by the change of the Oxford English Dictionary to make ‘literally’ not quite ‘literal’, language is simply always reinventing and redefining itself. And as languages evolve, you often see a gradual convergence in shared concepts. Let’s take our latin alphabet:

Now considered quite standard, it used to be very different between languages and regions of the world.

Technologies like the written word, the printing press and others helped the written letter to converge on a more standard set of characters. As humans used the script, its usage shaped the script in return.

A newer invention, Emoji, are similarly evolving as they are used. There’s been a few articles in recent months lamenting the differences in emoji sets from handset and software makers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 6.14.53 PM


Significant design differences in emoji can be a hassle at best, but at worst it completely alters the meaning of a communication, and creates a jarring disconnect between the intended meaning the sender is trying to convey to the recipient. Imagine if the letters of our latin script varied depending on the phone you used!

Here’s where emoji differ from latin script: While Unicode defines the meaning of the emoji, the makers of emoji ‘fonts’ — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and a few others — are left to interpret how to visualize these textual descriptions in an icon.

Of course, humanity doesn’t operate on standards. We operate by convention. In popular use, we’re seeing Apple’s set being the most ‘canonical’, partly thanks to popular culture and partly thanks to some applications like WhatsApp simply bundling the set across platforms to ensure people can communicate clearly.

Photo via Brit+Co

People don’t dress up as Google’s jellybean emoji, but Apple’s dancing girls are a particularly popular Halloween costume. Interestingly, the Unicode standard actually specifies one dancer, not two.

Companies like Google and Microsoft are entirely free to attempt to reshape our popular culture by changing the way their emoji look. They could easily dig their heels in and refuse to change their emoji iconography despite jarring differences between sets.

Fortunately, this isn’t the case. What we’re seeing instead is that the new emoji sets from Google and Microsoft have converged to a look that is far more similar to Apple’s, often mimicking particular peculiarities in expression or design that Apple apparently chose on a whim.

Compare: the updated Android emoji and the iOS emoji:

Source: Emojipedia

now look at the changes Microsoft is making, with the previous icons shown above and the new icons below:


In doing this, they are essentially helping all of emoji-using mankind (by some estimates, several hundred million people) to communicate more clearly and with less ambiguity.

Emoji have become something that is out of the control of these companies. I wonder if Apple had predicted the main contemporary use of the peach emoji, for instance…

Source: Emojipedia

But, now that it is indeed the conventional use case, Google updated their peach to reflect its usage.

I am grateful that these companies swallowed their pride and decided to attempt to help create one visual language for us to use.

This evolution of emoji is a fascinating process that is shaping a contemporary visual vocabulary for everyday expression. If emoji are indeed to be around for a long time — which seems likely, considering its suitability for conveying complex concepts and emotion through digital communication — we are seeing its very grammar being defined before our eyes.

What a time to be alive. 💫

My new project: Ride Earth

I’ve been so busy with this huge new endeavor that I haven’t even been able to announce it properly on my blog: my big new project has been launched! Meet Ride Earth.

Ride Earth is a website that serves as a place where people can find inspiration and tips on adventure travel, whether on motorcycle or hiking, hitchhiking, driving, flying — you name it. Apart from our own travel updates and tips, we will also be reviewing the gear and tools that make travel enjoyable by putting them to the test ourselves.

It’s an ambitious project, and I haven’t been this excited to launch something for a long time. As we build on it further, with our own travels and contributions of others, I hope it will become a great resource for others as well as a great place to spend some time.

The launch also means we’re embarking on another trip: starting late this month, me and Stuart are riding off again. This time, we are heading South, eventually hoping to hit the Southernmost accessible point of the American continent near Ushuaia, Argentina. Wish us luck!

You can follow the Ride Earth on the website, its Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

GMUNK + Eric Prydz: Generate

I was on set with Bradley Munkowitz aka GMUNK (who I know from way back in the old abstract digital art days) and his crew to shoot stills for the ‘Generate’ music video they made for Swedish EDM artist Eric Prydz.

The entire video uses zero CGI, and all these crazy awesome VFX were produced with good old practical effects, lasers, and some actual fireworks. Check out the video first, then check out my photos!

Prydz BTS  (16 of 131)

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Google Project Fi – First Impressions

When Google announced Google Fi, their attempt at being a cellular carrier, I was cautiously interested. While I don’t enjoy the idea of Google enjoying even more control and access about what I do online, I also want to encourage any innovation and competition in the cellular carrier space.

I’m also painfully, horribly frustrated as anyone with Verizon and AT&T so I jumped right on.

Google Fi-2

Google Fi currently only works with one cellphone, in two colors. At the time of writing, the white option was on backorder, so I got a blue one.

About a week after signing up and ordering, I got my package in the mail. This is where Google did something extremely nice: a fantastic new user experience in visual design and thoughtfulness.

Google Fi Package

You receive two packages, the Fi welcome package and your new Nexus 6.

Google Fi-4

The Fi package is exquisite. Really quite nice.

Google Fi-3

It made me feel welcome. It’s friendly, enforces the Fi brand and then just lets you go on your way. No bullshit.

The Nexus 6 packaging is nice, but not remarkable. It’s impossible to open without a knife of some sort (grumble).

Google Fi-5

The phone itself came with the screen protector not quite aligned correctly on the phone, and was covered in some dust and other particulate matter. A bit disappointing.

Google Fi-6

Alas, the Nexus 6 does not come pre-signed in to your Google account when you receive it. I feel like this would truly be a magical experience, but for several reasons (presumably, issues with technology, fulfillment process and security) this doesn’t happen.

The Nexus 6 has a beautiful setup assistant, though – much nicer than iOS’ cold, dead white first run experience. In one extra screen, you set up Fi and port your number, after which you can start using your phone immediately. While the number ports, the phone works over wi-fi.

Google Fi-7


Coverage was good in and around San Francisco, being about 70% as good as my iPhone 6 on Verizon. It had a few areas where data simply didn’t work, and ‘deep-indoor’ coverage (read: several units deep into an old, big apartment building) was poor like my T-Mobile coverage was when I first moved to San Francisco a few years ago.

Fortunately, you can simply call and text over Wifi. This does eat into your data plan, for some reason.

Speaking of T-Mobile, if you are in the market, another option that is currently on the market is T-Mobile’s prepaid plans, which while not being as easy to use, do feature unlimited 4G data (with a tethering data cap), the same rate for data abroad. Of course, you can use any phone with T-Mobile.

T-Mobile has a few other benefits Google Fi does not currently have:

– Data never ‘runs out’: the GBs you pay for are only for 4G LTE, after that your speeds simply drop. I haven’t tested this with Fi, but I think you just start paying more if you cross the GB cap.

– Data used streaming most major music services does not count towards your data use

– Data unused in one billing period rolls over to the next (‘Data Stash’)

– T-Mobile gives customers a discount on phones after 12 months of timely payments

Google Fi naturally has more coverage as it uses both the Sprint and T-Mobile network.


And the phone? Ah, the phone.

This isn’t a Nexus 6 review, so I won’t go into the phone and its OS too deeply, but in a few words: the Nexus 6 is a garish shade of blue, has a beautiful screen, works quite nicely and is simply way too goddamn big.

No, seriously, this thing will make your larger iPhone feel like a nano-phone. I find it less than usable. Maybe in the future, I will get to try Google Fi with a somewhat smaller phone, and I can give it a better and final verdict.

Google Fi-8

In the mean time, it works pretty well for doing a sort of tribute to a Rolling Stones album cover, though.

(above photo credit: Michael Grinich)