Tears of Joy for the Word of the Year

In Scott McClouds “Understanding Comics – The Invisible art”, when explaining icons and symbols, he states “The fact that your mind is capable of taking a circle, two dots and a line and turning them into a face is nothing short of incredible! But still more incredible is the fact that you cannot avoid seeing a face here. Your mind won’t let you!”. Its true, see the extract below (figure 1), it seems impossible not to see a face in this symbol.

Figure 1

In my current studies I am exploring ways in which a comic artists can communicate their narrative in a purely visual manner. On a professional level I work as a user experience and user interface designer for web and mobile devices. The times that we currently live and the manner in which people consume information requires the communicator ,whether it be an artist or a company, to communicate their idea in a manner that easily and quickly understood. To this end it is responsibility of the artists employed to find ways to achieve this goal. Whether creating a website, an app or a silent comic, the creator has a certain amount of time and space in which to communicate the idea to the audience. If they fail to engage the audience or communicate the idea effectively the audience will soon move on to the next thing.

The advent of mobile devices in particular have brought with them a slew of icons and emoticons which serve to express ideas and feelings in a simple, expedient way which transcends the use of specific language. We have seen these icons and symbols become gradually more complex yet through widespread use become a part of a commonly used lexicon of symbols.

2015 was the year in which it became more apparent than ever that these symbols are becoming a part of our accepted language as the Oxford Dictionaries, one the most prominent dictionary publishers in the world, announced for the first time ever that its word of the year was in fact a pictograph. Oxford dictionaries announced that the emoji (a symbol used to express an emotion) “Face with Tears of Joy” (Figure 2) was selected as their word of the year.


Figure 2


Although Emojis have been present in web and mobile technologies since the late 1990’s their use has increased hugely in the past year. The 😂 emoji was chosen as it was the most commonly used emoji globally in 2015. The 😂 emoji accounts for 20% of all emoji use in the UK in 2015 and 17% of total emoji use in the US. That is a 4% and 9% surge respectively on 2014. Use of the term “Emoji” has seen similar increases.

It has never been easier for people to access information, therefore depending on circumstances and the information required it can be vital that the information is provided in a way which is easily understood and does not demand a lot of time. The world is also more globally connect than ever before and although we may not share the same languages if an artist can effectively share an idea visually which transcend’s the use of specific language there is great opportunity to reach a wider audience. In a world which is beginning to except if not expect a more visual way of communicating it is important that the creator can communicate their ideas effectively.


McCloud, S. (1994) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. 1st edn. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.

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