Let’s Talk About That Emoji Portrait of Me

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It’s not a surprise that the company would want to produce such a thing. For years, the company has been engaged in a project of producing extremely high quality content on its website and app. In previous years, they have released videos of C-list celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves, a video of the company’s CEO dancing to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”, and lists of the best songs about each letter of the alphabet. The most visible part of this project has been its annual “Year in Review”—a ninety-second video that sums up the year in news, culture, and (perhaps most importantly) memes.

A key part of this project is humor—the company thinks that if it consistently produces content that is funny or irreverent or just plain weird enough, users will keep coming back to its app. The emoji portrait is another step towards this goal. The press release calls it “a unique way for us to celebrate the people who use Instagram every day by turning them into works of art and sharing them in unexpected places where you might run into your friends.”

I am not interested here in judging the artistic merits or demerits of the portrait

Art is not a new area for emoji, but it’s something we haven’t seen as much of on mainstream social media. There are a few accounts on Instagram and Tumblr that I follow that use emoji to create art, but there isn’t yet an account like @emojiportrait that uses the medium to create such stunning portraits. The account is a project from the Twitter-owned company Tapiture and the creative work of artist Jessica Deahl.

Tapping into the power of images

Deahl (the artist behind @emojiportrait) has been creating art since she was young, but her foray into emojis started in 2014 when she created an interactive piece that used emojis on a large scale. Most people know emojis as smiley faces, but they can be more than just that—they can be used as pieces in a collage or as an entire portrait.

One of her first works was “When You Find Out Your Ex Is Going On Vacation With All Of Your Friends

In the spring of 2016, I began working on a project called The Emoji Art Portrait. I was 23 years old. This is the story of how it happened.

The Emoji Art Portrait is a portrait of me that is made entirely out of emoji. The idea came from a friend who had read about another artist who had made a portrait using emoji as pixels. They both seemed like cool ideas with endless potential, so I decided to give it a try. It took me two weeks to complete the project, and when it was done, I posted the image on Instagram and Facebook with no caption in an attempt to see if people would understand what was going on without any context.


There were so many different emotions associated with this project: excitement, curiosity, anxiety, gratitude, surprise, pride, disappointment {…} My initial question was “Is this even possible?” and my answer was “Yes.” My second question was “Will anyone care?” and my answer was “I hope so.” In the end, I decided that this project would be an interesting experiment in visual storytelling and an opportunity for me to learn more about the creative process and myself as an artist.

This is a post about our recent collaboration with the New York Times, who commissioned us to produce a series of emoji portraits from the winners of their “Good Emoji Debate.”

The project was an unusual one for us: we usually work on long-term projects, not one-off commissions. But it was an exciting opportunity, and one that allowed us to experiment with a few new techniques.

This post will be about the process behind creating this series, including some of the things we tried and discarded along the way. We’ll also share some thoughts on what we’ve learned from this experience and what we’ve learned about emoji in general.

 We’ll be referring to specific images throughout the post. To view larger versions, you can visit our Flickr album here .

Over the past year, my team at Apple created a custom emoji keyboard for the iPhone. It’s called Swiftmoji and it has over 1,000 custom illustrations of emoji for people whose identities include coding, programming, and all things geeky.

I’m here to talk about one of those drawings — a portrait of me that is part of the same set as the emoji keyboard. It was created by an artist named Debbie Millman who has a podcast called Design Matters that I listen to religiously.

More specifically, she drew my portrait as part of an episode she did on identity. In the episode she interviews designers who have created emojis in their own image. She told her listeners that if they wanted to submit their own photo for consideration that it needed to be an original image (no selfies) and it needed to be redrawing from scratch. She also mentioned that the drawing would become an actual emoji available through Apple’s software keyboard.

You see, I had this crazy idea…

So I made a portrait of myself in emojis. The portrait is of me, it’s a self-portrait, and I’m making it using emojis.

Whew. That was a mouthful. Hang on while I draw in some emoji breath mints, because this will be a long post.

I don’t write many long posts, but this one felt like an important one to write. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that I’m still not sure what to do with my emoji portrait after it’s done!

That’s kind of unusual for me. Most of the things that go into my sketchbook eventually end up either in print or online at cartoonists.com . In fact, all of the things that have ended up in print or online have started out as drawings in my sketchbook first (though some have changed quite a bit from their original form). Even if something does not end up being published, I usually get feedback from folks who know me well enough to tell me what they think about my work-in-progress.

The Emoji Portrait is different though. It feels like an experiment that can’t be published! And when you

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