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TECH: WeMojis App – Emojis of Color & Culture

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on LoveAt1stByte.com

Emojis have become the language of a generation and of an era. While Samsung and Apple has made their users wait ages for more representative emojis beyond yellow-faced characters; there have been a variety of third-party publishers that have taken up the mantle of providing more unique choices. However the one, seemingly unresolved issue was the lack of diversity in emojis as they often only one race of people. While Apple recently released version 8.3 of iOS, which offers the ability to change the complexions of some of their current emojis, there’s still discontent with many users. It’s been noted that simply giving an emoji a different skin color, without including varying facial features or structures is seen as too limiting.

WeMojis_promo2

For the last two years the folks behind WEMOJIS have worked to change that by creating an app to bridge that gap. The WEMOJI startup team is based in Detroit, MI and is comprised of Trey Brown (CEO and Founder), Donovan Brown (Marketing Strategist and Co-Founder), Marcus Huddleston (CTO), Ewart Brown (Financial Strategist), and Pricilla Brown (Legal). The WEMOJIS app is currently available for iOS, with the Android version available within the next couple of weeks.

I had a chance to chat with Trey Brown and Donovan Brown (both of whom happen to be Howard University grads–HU, You Know!) and learn more about the WEMOJIS journey, what inspired them to create the app, and the overall startup experience:

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Tatiana: “Obviously you saw some lack of representation so decided to get to work on the WEMOJIS app. Please tell us what factors influenced this project.”

Donovan: “Lack of representation was definitely the root inspiration for the app. Similar to the need for HBCUs or any other black organization or institution, we felt the need to create this ourselves. We couldn’t leave it up to anyone else. There is a popular saying going around, that says “be the change you want to see”. So we tried to embody that. ”

Tatiana: “How do you think including more multicultural emojis will make a difference in the way people use emojis? In pop-culture?”

Trey: “It’s about the actual representation of the minority experience. Not just black emojis. The everyday cultural nuances are what makes this move a success. As far as we’re concerned, much of minority culture is translated into popular culture. Our images clearly show that we’re taking steps to get that culture represented more widely. We would be more than happy to work with the major platforms to make this a reality.”

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Tatiana: “How has the overall reception been for this app?”

Trey: “Overall reception has been overwhelmingly positive! People love the fact that their culture can be represented right on their own keyboards.”

Tatiana: “How long did it take you to build WEMOJIS? Can you take us through the process from coding to getting it in the App Store–did you meet with any resistance? What was/is your overall skill/experience level when creating this app?”

Donovan: “From the origin of the concept to our most recent release, it’s been two years. The process started with research on how emoticons worked, what it would take to create the app etc. Once we realized it was possible we had to find a development and design team to bring it to life. None of us had a deep technical expertise in terms of coding so we relied on our Director of Technology, Marcus Huddleston to relay our directions to our development team in India. Once, that process (which is the hardest and most time consuming part) is completed, we submit the app to the Apple App Store for review. We didn’t have much resistance on that front.”

Tatiana: “A few users that have complained that some of the emojis choices are stereotypical in nature (i.e cocoa butter, du-rags, etc.). While not everyone sees a problem with this how do you feel?”

Trey: “You cannot please everyone. But there is something for everyone on the application. We’re not concerned about what other people feel is stereotypical. We cover the entire experience and not just a perception of what one person might feel is offensive or stereotypical.”

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Tatiana: “It’s great that this App is available, but one of the hurdles with these types of apps is that its not directly integrated with Apple’s keyboard. How do you plan on getting around this?”

Donovan: “Our plan is to eventually be integrated into Apple or Droid devices as a fully functional keyboard option. To do this we must either strike a deal with the phone manufacturers, or be accepted as a standard by the Unicode Consortium. We are working on both of those Strategies currently. We believe that the more people know about this restriction and how their downloads and use of the app contribute to getting rid of it, the better.”

(Editor’s Note: According to the WeMojis Twitter page, Keyboard access is now available through General –> Settings –> Keyboard)

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Tatiana: “Any expansion plans? Either with additional emojis becoming available on WEMOJIS or other app releases?”

Trey: “There are a few things we want to improve on in our next update but we are looking forward to working with Apple and Google to get those things done. The more downloads we receive the louder our voice is.”

Donovan: “Of course! We plan on expanding the app to include imagery targeted as various other sub cultures such as Hispanic, Asian, and LGBT communities. We already have imagery for Hispanic audiences. We also plan on offering licensing options for customized Wemojis on behalf of specific brands, celebrities, sports teams etc. Lastly, the functionality of the app will grow with the audience. It has potential to become its own chat app (similar to Groupme) or eventually a social network. We will see!”

Tatiana: “What are the greatest takeaways you’d like to share about this experience?”

Trey: “The biggest thing we’ve learned is to keep pushing. Even though we’ve finally released WEMOJIS we’re still pushing to continually make the user experience better and to incorporate additional cultural symbols.”

Tatiana: “Where can people find out more information about WEMOJIS and about your team?”

Donovan & Trey: “We can be reached on our website (www.wemojis.com) or on any of our social media platforms

Twitter.com/wemojis
Instagram.com/wemojis
Facebook.com/wemojis