If you’ve ever used emojis like the dumpling, the hijab, or the DNA helix, you have Yiying Lu and Jennifer 8. Lee to thank. The pair founded Emojination, a nonprofit platform that brings democratically designed emoji to your keyboard. Lu, a Chinese-born graphic artist, and Lee, a Chinese-American journalist-turned-entrepreneur, started Emojination in 2015, after making plans for a dumpling dinner over text and realizing there was no dumpling emoji. “I was not a big emoji user at the time, but I thought, ‘Dumplings are so universal--there are pierogies, empanadas, gyoza--and emoji is a global universal language,’” Lee says. “So that meant that whatever system was in place was broken.”
They soon learned that 12 organizations, including Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft, pay $18,000 a year for the privilege of voting on whether an emoji gets included in the official lexicon. "How do you take something run by tech culture and try to make it inclusive and global and visual?" Lu says.
Emojination helps anyone who wants to add a new emoji develop a proposal, find a designer, and submit the materials for approval. Of the 66 new emoji the Unicode Consortium approved for 2018, 45 of them came from Emojination.