Microsoft open-sources its emojis as part of new design philosophy

No Clippy, though, and that philosophy only seems to go so far

Microsoft open-sourced most of its emoji library this week.

Since the company can't resist a rebrand, it refreshed its emoji library last year and has now turned most of the results over to Figma and GitHub.

All told, there are more than 1,500 (1,538 to be precise) options for users to express themselves with, but sadly none that represent brands currently trademarked. Itching to make something more of that Clippy emoji? Tough, Microsoft's lawyers might want a word.

The same applies to country flags, video game and technologist emojis.

Still, there is quite the range on offer, with some featuring a variety of skin tones to foster inclusion while others are there to express an emotion, plain and simple. Although, as a recent report by Slack and Duolingo demonstrated, be careful of how you use them. It may not mean what you think it means.

All told, Microsoft spent more than a year ensuring its emoji could be used in pretty much any format be it SVG, PNG or JPG. A vector, flat and monochrome version of each was created "for scale and flexibility."

We took a look at what Microsoft had uploaded to GitHub and came away impressed by the variety on offer, all covered by the MIT license. Sure, the organization could be better and it would be helpful if more image formats could be included, but these are nitpicks.

It is perhaps a shame that country flags have been omitted, or that Microsoft did not replace its trademarked Clippy with something a little more generic, but the library is otherwise extensive.

Jon Friedman, Corporate Vice President for Design & Research at Microsoft, extolled the virtues of the open-source approach and noted that professional processes were shifting "like the closed and hierarchical norms that once defined product development."

It's almost as though he's describing how Windows is put together.

"That's what makes open-sourced UX culture so interesting and so aligned with our own design philosophy of designing in the open," he continued.

"I've seen firsthand how it's transformed our culture and products."

Not all. While Microsoft's sharing of more than 1,500 fluentized emojis is one thing, we can but hope that it might consider taking similar steps with some of its other products that would most definitely benefit from a change in "design philosophy."

But as Friedman observed of Microsoft's trade-secrets: "We can't put lawyers wholly out of business." Perish the thought. ®


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