The fact that there's only one brown person emoji in the standard set of emojis — and the fact that said brown person is a male, wearing a turban — has not gone unrecognized in my family.
Katrina Parrott created iDiversicons, an app that offers over 900 diverse emoticons, ranging from same sex and interracial couples to varying dog breeds and facial expressions. The app also has images for many emoji hand symbols but with different skin tones. The icons can be used in texts and emails, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
It was really exciting to download the app and immediately find an emoji that looks sort of like me, and one that looks sort of like my brother. I texted him right away:
iDiversicons really makes an effort to be inclusive: There are lots of different faces with a variety of skin tones and hair textures, same-sex couples, a woman in a headscarf, a dude who reminds me of Common. You'll also find hot dog, which is an oft-requested item. There's even an ever-elusive Black Santa, which is a HUGE deal in my family.
Parrott — who was a Program Manager at NASA before getting laid off last year (!) — tells the Houston Chronicle: "One thing we wanted was an app that represented not just African Americans, we wanted one that represented the world." Her daughter gave her the idea, when she came home and said, "Wouldn't it be nice for me to send an image that looked like me to my friends?" But, as Parrott explains, it wasn't just about adding brown skin — there is a blonde woman in a military uniforms and a nurse with red hair. "We wanted all people to be able to find an emoji that looked like them."
The real problem right now is that iDiversicons are not really emoji — they're little icons you can send via iMessage, Twitter or Instagram, but they're not accessed through the keyboard the way emoji are — you can't create a horizontal "sentence" using the icons, the way you can with emoji. But Parrott is working on it:
The next step for Parrott is getting iDiversicons integrated as a keyboard option, so users will not have to go to the app each time they use an emoji. She is due to pitch her product to the Unicode technical committee, who make that decision, next month.
Wishing her the best of luck! (iDiversicons has a four-leaf clover!)