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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's not about 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. 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.

Gun(s)

For the meantime, Mutant Standard will have no gun emoji of any kind, not even the squirt gun alternative that many American emoji vendors have decided to use.

There are a lot of intermingling reasons why this is the case, I made quite a long and complicated response to this situation here.

Family ZWJs

For multiple reasons:

  • It's exclusionary to polyamorous families and other kinds of family or guardian arrangements.
  • I don't feel it's great design. You could just put different adult and child emoji next to each other. They don't need a ZWJ.

Because they are ZWJs, they will probably be fully compatible with Mutant Standard because they can just degrade to their constituent parts.


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.

Restricting commercial use 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 a level of skill and knowledge to handle that.


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.


Is Mutant Standard open source?

No, but it is copyleft, and you can make derivatives of the emoji you can download from this website as outlined in the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

It's not that I don't believe in open source (I do, especially when it's in the hands of a diverse group of people). It's just that I'm concerned with the practical implications of offering master files (as opposed to exports), and I currently feel that not offering them gives me a degree of protection (although not complete protection - which is not possible) from the possibility of other people using the emoji in ways not outlined in the license.


Can I remix or edit Mutant Standard emoji?

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

  • The same restrictions of the license for the original emoji apply to your remixed emoji, so:

    • You need to attribute me for having made the original designs (as you would if you were just using the original emoji).

    • You can't use the remixes for commercial purposes.

    • You need to follow other restrictions in the license, check it for more information.

    • If you share your remixed creations, you have to do so under the same license that Mutant Standard is shared as.

    • You should make it clear that you edited or remixed them.

  • Other restrictions apply aside from the license like...

    • You shouldn't present them as if I made them, as if they are endorsed or made by the Mutant Standard project in any way.

Why aren't all Mutant Standard emoji available as codepoint versions?

A codepoint is something that is assigned to an emoji picture. It doesn't automatically have one.

Some of Mutant Standard's emoji have already been assigned codepoints by other people because they came up with them (like Unicode emoji), but others (normally new and unique ones to Mutant Standard) haven't been assigned codepoints yet.

Mutant Standard is in rather early stages currently and a lot of it's unique emoji are experimental and are not necessarily permanent (like skin colour modifiers). Even when they are, it takes a bit of time to exactly decide what codepoint each emoji is going to get.

So for the meantime, codepoint versions of Mutant Standard releases are only going to include emoji whose codepoints have already been decided by other people.

Eventually, all Mutant Standard emoji should have codepoints, but it's going to take time, so expect the codepoint version to lag behind the shortcode version in terms of how many emoji it has, even when it starts getting Mutant Standard's unique emoji.


Isn't it a bad thing to plan to use the Unicode PUA (Private Use Area) for emoji?

It has it's issues, but it's also absolutely necessary in order to pave the way for things like mobile phone keyboards. It can also make lower-bandwidth and more reliable sending of Mutant Standard emoji possible.

The problem with something that Mutant Standard is doing is that you aren't going to be able to make it accessible to so many people in this way with existing technologies without some mojibake. They're either going to be available in ways where people really want them, or stuck in a few places and don't have the same impact on people's lives.

And it's important to remember that Mutant Standard isn't just a few cute pictures - this set actually changes peoples' online social experiences. This is something I believe is important and not just something people want already, but people should and deserve to have where they want to use it.

New technologies (like some kind of hypothetical decentralised emoji standard) won't solve this because there isn't the political or economic pressure to make widespread adoption happen (and even if it did, it would take a long amount of time to actually be accessible to a really large amount of people).


Why plan to use a lot of PUA codepoints instead of ZWJs of existing Unicode Standard characters?

There are many reasons for this...

There would always be risk of conflicts with Unicode Standard

The biggest, most functional reason is simply that Unicode could come up with new characters using ZWJs of their existing ones at any time. This means that if some Mutant Standard emoji were to consist of ZWJ sequences of entirely Unicode's emoji, they are always at risk of conflicting with a new Unicode Standard. Making sure each of MutStd.'s custom emoji has at least one codepoint that is in the PUA removes this risk.

ZWJs for unmodified symbols is messy

Using one codepoint per unmodified symbol both makes sense from a production perspective and from a technical perspective - it allows you to clearly identify what is a modified/combination symbol and what isn't.

Using ZWJs for singular symbols makes production harder to oversee and harder for computers to identify intended meaning. Also, should the symbol require modification later on, using ZWJs makes things even more complicated because you then have to do another ZWJ.

It's not real backwards compatibility

If a unique emoji in Mutant Standard is a ZWJ of Unicode Standard emoji and someone doesn't have Mutant Standard on it, it would degrade and all they would see is the Unicode emoji in the ZWJ.

And they might be actually be able to see symbols instead of white boxes, but the left over Unicode Standard emoji wouldn't necessarily convey the inherent meaning of the symbol that ZWJ was meant to stand-in for.

Codepoints mean something

Even though a white box is a white box and can be annoying, at least they tell someone that a symbol should have been there. With ZWJs of existing emoji, there would be no way of really telling whether it was just two Unicode emoji together, or was meant to be one of Mutant Standard's custom emoji, or if it was someone else's ZWJ.

While not using ZWJs of existing characters may result in mojibake, PUA codepoints would be able to provide a clear set of expectations and they provide a way for people and software to be able to tell when their web apps or devices fail to meet those expectations.

Being clearly told that something is missing is better instead of pretending it is there but actually isn't.

It's against the philosophy of the project

One of the reasons Mutant Standard exists in the first place is so people don't have to use euphemisms of Unicode Standard emoji to express themselves.

If Mutant Standard unique emoji degrade as ZWJs of Unicode Standard emoji, it wouldn't just fail to meet software expectations or communicate what someone meant, it would actually erase peoples' self-expression.

This is because people on the inside (people with the appropriate fonts/software installed) would be the only ones who could see it, and everyone on the outside wouldn't even be able to identify what they are trying to talk about because to them they would just look like normal emoji.

PUA codepoints are an inherently chaotic proposition, especially for a project of this scale, but the power dynamic of Unicode Standard's emoji is inherently damaging and breaking past that is not going to be a clean process. I consider using PUA to be a start of that process, not an end.


What tools do you use to make your emoji?

All emoji designs are produced in Affinity Designer (which I am proud to just flat out tell you and link to you because they deserve more exposure for being a nice software company that doesn't practice Digital Feudalism).

But to get all of the colour variants and different file versions (ie. codepoint, shortcode, 64px, 128px, SVG, etc.) made and exported efficiently, I have an in-house tool called Orxporter. It will eventually be open source so you can use it for your own emoji projects (if you know how to use a command line).

If you want to learn even more about what equipment I use, you can check out this blog post (it's a little dated now, but mostly the same).


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?

Yes.


Do you accept one-time donations?

Yep! Check out the PayPal section of the donations page.


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 🙃)


Have you considered making adult emoji?

Yes! Quite a few people have asked me this, and I'd be interested in doing it (I'm totally sex positive!), but there are a bunch of hurdles and things beforehand:

  • Some patronage services don't accept adult content or have really weird rules about it that make it very hard for me to use them.
  • This would need to be it's own separate project with it's own separate website to gate off under-18's and to ensure that the default Mutant Standard set remains accessible to all ages and can be put in a phone app without regulatory issues.
  • I would need to be more comfortable with certain things because personal issues I haven't quite ironed out ye.
  • I would rather come towards the end of Mutant Standard before considering working on another emoji project, because Mutant Standard in itself is kinda huge and there's already a lot to think about.

So I would wait a couple of years and see how things go until then. :D


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, worse things) 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, we should be saying it isn't anyone's business how we conduct our own lives and how we choose to express ourselves.

(A current example of this is Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people gaining more acceptance, but only if they are 'like normal people' and don't talk about or complain about social injustices. This has been happening to the extent where some Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people are suggesting 'dropping the T from LGBT', or dismissing the experiences of those who don't conform to traditional gender roles.)

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?

Nope.

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 a common mistake to assume that you can make an emoji set (or most things for that matter) for everyone.

'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 group of symbols made by Japanese telecom 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 talk about universality in emoji, various aspects of Mutant Standard like the gender-neutral arguably make Mutant Standard more universal than traditional Unicode sets, because those emoji exclude fewer people.


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

All art and design is political. Just because Unicode presents themselves as an organisation working on some level of non-bias and universality, it doesn't mean that it actually exists.

By the mere choice to select what pictures to insert into an emoji standard, you are making a statement as to what things you think are important and what is not. This is a political statement.

And the way that Silicon Valley tech companies (who comprise much of who Unicode is in the first place) enforce emoji by restricting the use (whether intentionally or not) of alternative emoji sets also makes a political statement about what they think these symbols are and what they represent and how people should use them. - One set of pictures, selected mostly by Silicon Valley (with some Japanese influences because of emoji's history), and provided by Silicon Valley for everyone around the world, regardless of what your cultural background is, regardless of who you as an individual are.

Much has been said about the dangerous level of political and social influence that Silicon Valley is exerting through their products and through capitalism, but little has been said about cultural influence via things such as emoji.