A big question

Aspects of the emoji




Other questions

Why promote a lot of non-standard emoji? Isn't that bad for the internet?

I think the outcome of promoting non-standard emoji is the opposite; we need this diversity. I think this is something many westerners (especially anglophones) don't understand the implications of very well, but there should never be a universal language. Not for written or spoken communication, not for pictorial communication, but this is what we are getting with Unicode emoji.

The tools we use to communicate (language, emoji, body gestures, etc.) shape how we perceive the world. Emoji are not just cute little pictures - our use of them has and will continue to shape us. And as we do as readily with words, we should be able to use our language to express who we are instead of being in a system where the only vocabulary we use comes from someone else.

I don't think the Unicode Consortium has bad intentions but it's a very bad and short-sighted idea to let one group of people decide what emoji we use.

Why make gender-neutral emoji?

So that people who don't have binary gender (either male or female) identities can feel like they can express themselves and so they don't feel excluded by an emoji system that insists on either male or female emoji.

Why make gender-neutral emoji without the male and female ones? Won't that break meaning in messages?

It will (to a degree), but I feel that this decision is of benefit to all genders.

Binary gendered emoji not only do a disservice to non-binary people, but they also do a disservice to the binary people themselves. This is because the only way you can really visualise 'male' and 'female' in an emoji is by resorting to damaging visual stereotypes. (Men have short hair and wear blue, women have long hair and wear pink, etc. etc.)

This isn't the 1950s. We already have more nuanced, diverse and healthier ideas of male and female than that, and as our cultural understandings of gender have the potential to become even more nuanced and healthy, everyone loses with this form of representation.

It might be convenient to keep the male and female emoji, but I think the negatives of doing that outweigh the benefits. Unlike offering different skin colours, representing genders like this is not simply visually reductive of people, but harmfully reductive.

This approach to gender has an added benefit of being more inclusive and race-inclusive because they don't show any hair. Typical gendered emoji usually show straight hair, which limits how relevant they are depending on who is using them.

Why make nonhuman skin colour emoji?

The reason I originally did it was for myself. If you've looked at any of my stuff online, you've probably noticed that I represent myself as an orc, and I've generally always wished there were some green skin variants of emoji so that I can feel more emotionally connected to what I was posting online.

I definitely don't equate fantasy/non-existent races/species/creatures with real-life, human races (and that's not the point or intention of this option), but it doesn't stop this feature from being of use or emotionally important to people for a variety of reasons.

I've noticed people who don't have a nonhuman persona or identity also take an interest in using them anyway. You might just want to use a different colour, or you might want to change things up for more emotional impact (like use red if you're angry). Maybe you could change the default skin tone emoji on your site from yellow to one of the other nonhuman skin tones to fit the theme more. There are a lot of possibilities, really.

And of course, you don't have to use them at all. ^w^

What Unicode emoji are you not going to make?

Mutant Standard isn't going to be 100% Unicode compatible. Pretty close to 100%, but not 100%. This is partly because binary gendered (either male or female) emoji aren't being included, but there are other kinds of emoji too that for philosophical reasons, I do not feel comfortable doing.

It's not that if you use Mutant Standard, you can't use these at all, it's just that you would just have to just find them from another set like Twemoji or EmojiOne.

There may be more than these in the future, but these are the ones I have currently come across.

Police officer and border patrol emoji (🛂🛃👮‍♀️)

Being in emoji is a sign of privilege that normalises these roles in society, and given what these roles do, I don't feel that they deserve this privilege. It doesn't matter what the individuals in these roles are like or how they feel about their jobs, it is about the roles themselves and what they mean in society, especially in the current global context.

I don't think that all police officers always perform socially negative work, but where it is positive and negative is unevenly split along socioeconomic lines, which is a serious wrong in itself. There are also severe unresolved institutional issues in various parts of the world that endanger peoples' lives in incredibly unnecessary and cruel ways.

Borders (and those that maintain them) help preserve global inequality. The ways our current society tend to use borders against the disadvantaged is not how a truly humane society behaves in my opinion.

Why use a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA License?

I want every online community to be able to use Mutant Standard if they want to, so it's free for non-commercial use.

These emoji take a lot of time to make, and I think it's fair that I can be financially compensated for my work, so commercial use is not freely available. Basically, I don't want to be exploited.

It also has other benefits. I don't want my emoji to ever be used in software that has unethical business practices and because of the license, I have control over that.

Plus, if I were to make merch, I can make sure whatever gets made is good quality. I want them to look as good IRL as they do on-screen and that takes skill and the proper equipment and suppliers.

Why use a Creative Commons license if this is going to be used in software?

Mutant Standard tends to straddle the line between technology and design, so this has been a weird one to think about, but I feel more comfortable using Creative Commons than a software license because it covers certain scenarios specifically for image makers and designers whereas code licenses wouldn't necessarily. Like printing merchandise or incorporating the emoji into other graphical works.

Can I remix or edit Mutant Standard emoji?

Sure! The license allows it. You just have to keep in mind a few things:

Why are you using Patreon for recurring funding?

Because alternatives are limited for the time being.

I’m aware that the Patreon account of an anti-fascist site was terminated by Patreon, basically at the request of fascist Patreon users.

I'm also aware that they planned a devastating fee hike in December 2017, which they then U-turned on the same month.

As much as I would rather not use Patreon, there are no practical alternatives for my situation. They are either not very easy to use, have incredibly high fees (defeating the point of donating somewhat), aren't available to UK residents or are only available to open source projects (which this project is not).

While I have Liberapay as a funding option, it still has high fees depending on where a donor lives and it's not that easy to use, so I am only recommending it as an alternative for those who would absolutely rather not use Patreon.

Patreon is your garden variety shitty Silicon Valley corporation, but I also unfortunately don’t really have another choice if I realistically want this funded, and a lot of other services would act the same anyway.

I do plan on moving from Patreon when Drip is more publicly available, but it's going to be a while before then.

Do you have Liberapay as a recurring donation option?


Do you accept one-time donations?

Not right now because traditional methods (PayPal, Ko-fi, Squarecash) would either expose my legal identity (which for both personal security reasons and gendering reasons I'd rather not do) or aren't available in my country.

The next best thing you can do right now is buy some merch.

I wouldn't recommend doing it for large donations - I only receive about 25% of the sales price on products there. If you want to make a large donation, message me and I'll see what I can figure out.

Do you accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency donations?

No. I have looked into it in the past, but it doesn't make much sense for me to do it.

It's just not that practical. I'm not a fan of capitalism or corporations, but it's not like cryptocurrency doesn't involve either of those elements, plus cryptocurrency has the drawback that I can't eat or buy stuff with it and I'd have to keep my stuff super-secure else someone might steal it all.

I know PayPal, Stripe and Patreon aren't great, but they get the job done, and that's sometimes worth more than something that might *feel* less lame but has many hoops to jump through, and might have a bunch of unseen costs that reduces the effectiveness of your donation quite a bit.

Do you accept emoji contributions?

Because I want Mutant Standard to be a very visually cohesive set (and because I want to fund development via selling merch), I'm not accepting contributions, but I wholeheartedly encourage you to make and release emoji by yourself or with other people 😀.

I would like to suggest an emoji idea.

Feel free to suggest at my usual places. Keep in mind that I don't do memes or something very specific unless I see something in it that's more generically applicable.

(Or unless my $5+ patrons vote for me to do it 🙃)

What does the name mean?

The name originally came from the name of a song I like by Oneohtrix Point Never.

It stuck with me as I was making them. It seemed very appropriate as this set exists as a counterpoint to Unicode's emoji - the Unicode Standard. It also points to the fact that this emoji set is not entirely new - it is a mutation of the Unicode Standard.

The name also refers to the fact that this set addresses various issues (and thus could be a better 'standard') for people who are considered weird (or perhaps even more ignorantly, broken or diseased) by a substantial proportion of western society.

Isn't the use of 'mutant' offensive to certain groups that you cover in your emoji set?

Firstly, Mutant doesn't entirely refer to the groups the set serves, it exists partly to make a jab at the Unicode Consortium - the 'Unicode Standard' when it comes to emoji. It also reflects the nature of the emoji set itself, which is itself a 'mutation' of Unicode Standard.

While this does also refer to the fact that the emoji set is designed with special consideration for people often considered weird (or worse) in society, I use 'mutant' positively and in a way that I feel is necessary to address issues in society regarding normativity. The point of this emoji set is greater than any single group of people this set might cater to.

If we live in a society where people are valued based on what is considered 'normal' or what the prevailing trends are, then we can never have a truly civilised or decent society.

Instead of being concerned with how normal a group might seem or how 'normalised' they seem (like LGB groups), we should be saying it isn't anyone's business how we conduct our own lives and how we choose to express ourselves. If we live in a society where language like 'mutant' can carry negative connotations because it implies something is not normal, then we are not in a society that can ensure the wellbeing of all inherently peaceful groups of people.

If you don't believe in standards, isn't it hypocritical to make your own?

Not really. Making a competing standard against Unicode makes it harder for them to have a monopoly and it encourages others to question their legitimacy. The fundamental difference between Mutant Standard and Unicode is that there is any choice at all.

When you're promoting the idea of something, it means a lot to have a real, tangible example that people can use, so I'm making emoji instead of just talking about it. Aside from that, there are just a lot of custom emoji I want and other people want, so why not make it part of one big thing?

I want everyone to be able to make and use their own custom emoji if they want to and choose the emoji sets that express themselves the best. I think this is something every social or messaging app provider should provide freely. But right now, there are a variety of technical limitations to that, and a lot of developers that may not have the interest in implementing that feature.

By making Mutant Standard, I'm doing what I feel personally is a better version of emoji and anyone is free to disagree with me and decide not to use it. You do not get that luxury if you just had Unicode.

Why make Unicode emoji at all if you don't agree with Unicode?

Because I like some of them, and they are what people are used to.

I want to make non-standard emoji enticing and fun; show people what it could be like if they had emoji that expressed themselves better and I don't think it would be as encouraging if people didn't have the emoji they already like and enjoy along with them.

I don't necessarily have a problem with Unicode's emoji themselves (other than the ones I change or exclude from Mutant Standard for specific reasons), I just have a problem with Unicode's emoji being the only ones that really get to exist.

Would you consider submitting some of your emoji ideas to the Unicode Consortium?


I don't agree with Unicode's monopoly on emoji encoding, I don't agree with their emoji philosophy and I don't agree with their decision making process, so I wouldn't want to validate that by making any submissions.

While it certainly has an impact on everyone, I don't see how getting involved with Silicon Valley would make the change I want to see. I think it's better to do things my own way.

A big part of why this project exists is because I want to create the emoji myself and others want to see instead of asking someone else for permission, so that's what I'm going to continue to do.

If Unicode is trying to make an emoji set for everyone, why is yours better if it's only adding emoji for certain people?

I think it's misguided to assume that you can make an emoji set for everyone. I think this can be a common mistake.

'Better' is a subjective thing, and for many years, Unicode has been doing it's thing with emoji, and while many people enjoy them on a daily basis, there are many other people who don't, and feel excluded by them.

What Unicode does (now, originally Emoji was a port of symbols made by Japanese telecommunications companies) is try to incorporate symbols that they deem to be popular enough to include into their standard. Popular is not the same as universal.

The fundamental and important difference is that Mutant Standard quite openly recognises what it is, where it's limitations lie and it wants to give people choice. Unlike Unicode or emoji vendors, I don't expect that anyone should use these emoji unless they actually want to.

But if you want to play the universality card, various aspects like the gender-neutral emoji in Mutant Standard arguably make it more universal than Unicode, because they exclude fewer people.

Don't you think it should be the role of an emoji vendor to be non-political?

If you think that Unicode's emoji set doesn't already have a political stance, or you think that a non-political stance exists anywhere, I'm not sure what I can say that would persuade you otherwise about this.