Are ICONS taking over the world of communication?

Back in April of this year Damon Brown of the Inc. Magazine wrote a nice article about our company, telling our tale and also wondering whether “emojis could be the future of international communication”.

After many other things to be worked off our table, we finally took time to take Damon’s article up, to thank him for it, and to respond to it:

Starting off, we have to differentiate between emojis and icons. Our company is called ICONSPEAK, we create functional icons (not emojis) for multiple purposes – also for our World Edition shirt, where we created 39 (not 40 as wrongly stated by many journalists) hyper functional icons that help travelers, backpackers and explorers to initiate communications and overcome language barriers – all over the world. Icons are about functionality, emojis are about emotions. Hence with emojis you can express your emotions – and with icons you can express needs or refer to specific objects. Hence as ICONSPEAK we are in the icon business and all about functional communication. Expressing your emotions through a shirt would in our view be pointless – one can express a million and more emotions with your face, no number of emojis on a shirt would never do that justice.

We agree with Damon that symbols, emojis and icons do have a great and international potential – as they are (if designed carefully) understood on a global level. Especially nowadays you can see icons popping up in many smart-phone related fields, due to the limited space available on mobile displays. For example google maps search now integrated icons to ease most used search queries.

In general, icons are superior to the written or spoken word if there are limitations of either space, time, acoustic or linguistic understanding. Hence whenever there is no space or time to write or say what you want – or whenever you cannot be heard or understood. These are the fields into which icons are currently marching in. We think they will continue to do so.

Many journalists or friends have asked us whether we aim to eliminate the learning of foreign languages. Or people commented on social media that it would be easier to learn a language instead of using an ICONSPEAK World Edition shirt. Languages are an amazing cultural treasure and we in no means have the intention to replace foreign languages. Our World Edition shirt sparks communication, serves as an initial mean to cover your basic needs. Even more, as you use your shirt you will learn so many new words and languages – people tend to say the local expression of what you are pointing at on your shirt.

Summing up, to answer Damon Browns question: “Could emojis be the future of international communication?”. No, not emojis – but neither icons. None of the two symbol types will be THE future – but they will be part of the future. Especially in the areas outlined above, icons will also in future remain superior to the spoken or written word.

October 2016

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