Google is releasing 53 new non-binary emojis on all their phones.
The new emojis will be coming to Pixel phones in beta this month (May), before being rolled out to all Android Q phones later in the year.
They designed the emojis to appear gender fluid in an attempt to simplify the emoji keyboard. The number of emojis has grown from 176 symbols in 1999 to 3000 now.
The approach to creating the gender-neutral option differs depending on the character. Most have a haircut that conceivably could be male or female. Swimmers are in full-body costumes as to not have any bodily signifiers. The merperson has their arms crossed over their chest.
Google going gender-fluid
Jennifer Daniel, a designer at Google, told Fast Company: ‘There’s no singular way of getting it right. Gender is complicated.
‘It is an impossible task to communicate gender in a single image. It’s a construct. It lives dynamically on a spectrum. I personally don’t believe there is one visual design solution at all, but I do believe to avoid it is the wrong approach here.
‘We can’t avoid race, gender, any other number of things in culture and class. You have to stare it in the face to understand it. That’s what we’re trying to do – to [find]] the signifiers that make something feel either male or female, or both male and female.’
The addition of gender neutral emojis is also a practical one. Some emojis are gendered as a default, but the Unicode does not specify a gender. This means when someone sends a person in a sauna from a Google phone (default female), when it arrives on an iOS device it will be the default male. They are hoping this will stop confusion.
Unfortunately, until other companies adopt gender-neutral emojis, they’ll be assigned a gender if sent to other devices. However, they are hopeful others will soon adopt them.