Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.
Heart, sad face, happy face, ramen bowl: You probably use emojis every day in your texts, Instagrams, tweets, and — if you're like us — maybe your work emails. And, you are not unusual: Emojis were used a staggering 1.7 billion times on Twitter from July to November this year alone. But, have you ever thought about the cultural implications of those cute little symbols? Last Thursday, Eyebeam Art+Technology Center unveiled an exhibit aiming to get to the heart of the emoji experience — what they refer to as "a language that conveys humor, ambiguity and personality as well as meaning."
The Emoji Art & Design Show features emoticon-themed pieces culled by a panel of curators from submissions to an open artist call. Among the many works displayed were abstractly painted emojis (Kyle M. F. Williams' Emojis), a typewriter sculpture with emoji keys (Maya Ben-Ezer's Shift Key), and a custom chat program with electrodes that forces the user's face into the shape of the emoji being displayed (Fito Segrera & Emilio Vavarella's Transiconmorphosis — way less scary than it sounds on paper).
Our favorite piece, though, has to be the enormous Emoji Tracker predominantly projected on one giant wall. Software designer Matthew Rothenberg envisioned his piece as a real-time grid that keeps tabs on the most popular emojis being used on Twitter. Put simply, it was mesmerizing to stand in front of the screen and watch frogs, bashful faces, hamburgers, and smiling poops fly up and down the leader board. (You can check it out online in a miniature version right here.)
If you'd like to take some emoji art home, there's also a pop-up market in the Eyebeam Book Store featuring emoticon-laden swag of all types, from classic shirts redone with happy faces to limited-edition zines to prints of the famous New Yorker magazine cover made entirely from mini emojis. Click through to take a look at the art, and be sure to check out the the show soon — it's been extended through Saturday, December 21.