TBWA\Dublin has today launched the world’s first ‘Smiling Face Mask Emoji’ and submitted a proposal to Unicode – the world standard for text and emoji – for the new creation to be added to emoji keyboards around the world.
The Covid-19 pandemic has largely changed world views on face masks. Recommendations from the World Health Organisation, as well as numerous medical studies that suggest face coverings are effective in reducing the spread of Coronavirus, have resulted in a dramatic change in global behaviour. The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention found over 76% of Americans now endorse face masks and in some countries – such as Spain and Italy – the number of people wearing coverings rose to over 80%. Latest research shows that this figure is just over 60% in Ireland.
Despite this rapid change of global behaviour, TBWA\Dublin spotted an issue in a form of communication used by the world over – the emoji keyboard. Prior to the pandemic, face masks were recognised as a sign of illness, causing unease and apprehension amongst those not wearing masks. The current face mask emoji accurately represents this sentiment – its closed eyes are visually linked to other emojis people use to express negative emotions. TBWA\Dublin’s own research using 100 Voices (the agency’s standby global panel of people prepared to give their time and views via audio notes, video responses, and Design Thinking exercises) also revealed a negative perception from audiences.
However, the perception of face coverings has changed dramatically. In response, TBWA\Dublin has created a brand new emoji to represent this. Face masks are now a sign of health, well-being, and protection. They’re a sign of safety and security – and this new emoji allows people to support a positive sentiment around face coverings.
The ‘Smiling Face Mask Emoji’ was designed by TBWA\Dublin to echo features of positive emojis. The connotations are caring, inviting, and friendly – representing the new-found global view of face coverings as an essential form of protection and safety for all.
Amy Tumelty, social media and content specialist at TBWA\Dublin, comments: “You can’t scroll through your social feeds right now without coming across a conversation about face masks and how important they are. But we realised that people are using an emoji that doesn’t support their positive feelings – it seemed out-dated and unrepresentative of current perceptions. We wear face masks not only to protect ourselves and those around us, but also because they make us feel safe, secure and comfortable in public situations. Emojis have become such an integral part of online communication, so the new ‘Smiling Face Mask Emoji’ is our way of furthering the efforts to normalise face masks.”
Andrew Murray, director of social media and content at TBWA\Dublin, adds: “When you take a close look at the current face mask emoji – it clearly represents ill-health or sickness. The eyes are squinting and, from our 100 Voices Research, people said that the emoji even appears to be wincing. This emoji has its place. It can represent sadness or sickness. But the world has changed over the past six months. Wearing a mask can help to stop the spread of Covid-19. So we need to remove any negative connotations around mask wearing – and show it to be a positive thing that will help you and protect others. Kids (and some adults – myself included!) have entire conversations using only emojis – if this emoji addition can help in some small way to normalise mask wearing and make it less of a ‘scary thing’ for some people – it may even save a life.”