5 things we learned about being an emoji translator

Emoji translator Keith Broni shares some of the tricks of his highly unusual trade.

In partnership with University of Salford

As part of our #LifeHacks campaign for young creatives, NME and University of Salford hosted a special Facebook and Twitter live panel on Friday (October 13) featuring three people who are pursuing new and exciting tech careers.

One member of the panel was emoji translator Keith Broni, who shared some fascinating insights into his new and highly unusual career. Here are five things Keith told us on the day.

1. Being an emoji translator is about a lot more than ending each text with a heart-eyes icon.

“Being a very prominent user of emojis is important, but it’s not the be all and end all. You have to be interested in what lies beneath. Many of the emojis we use today are very strong indicators of a particular meaning. To be able to assess what they mean in certain contexts, you have to be very aware of current research in data science. The research we’re doing into emoji usage trends and interpretation is based around data sets drawn from the likes of Twitter and WhatsApp.”

2. An emoji translator needs to understand the pitfalls of using them, as well as the benefits.

“Emojis are pretty much ubiquitous in digital communications these days. They really capture the imagination of people worldwide. But even if you use an emoji to compliment a flippant comment on social media, it can still offend people, and it can still get you into trouble. You have to be careful how you use them.”

3.The world will need more emoji translators – but many other careers will also involve understanding how they work.

“People that are in marketing professions, or any kind of digital communications, will need to be aware of the manner in which people are using emoji to communicate and the different ways they’re cropping up. For example, you can now add an emoji into your name on Twitter, and that has become hugely popular. If you’re communicating digitally in the future, you’ll need to know what emojis can be used for, where they can get you in trouble, and how most effectively to use them to engage an audience.”

4. The number of emoji is still growing – but this will slow down eventually.

“At the moment no emoji has been retired, and we actually have 2,666 in operation. As we get more of them, and as they become more ubiquitous across different devices, I expect to see a plateau in the total number of emoji. But before then, I think we’re going to see a lot of additional peaks as more and more people get access to new icons.”

5. But the way we access them is going to change.

“The way emoji are presented on different devices is going to have to change. The way it’s laid out as a menu of icons just in a row really restricts people from fully engaging with the broad range of icons available. I guarantee there are developers working on this now – they’re working to increase the speed with which you can access a broad range of icons.”

Watch Keith in the “Jobs that didn’t exist five years ago” panel below:

The panel is part of a year-long programme of #LifeHacks events we’ve created with help from our friends at University of Salford. The aim is to help inspire young creatives on how to get ahead in the world of work.

Read about and get tickets for the next exciting #LifeHacks event with the University of Salford here.