For this week’s Fun for Friday (including even more alliteration in the title than usual!), we are going to take a look at how Facebook (with the assistance of a Pixar artist and a certain Mr Charles Darwin) are planning to change the face of Facebook… quite literally!

For those of you new to the concept of emoticons (which by now is surely not many), they are small pictures used in text based messaging services intended to convey non-verbal communication (e.g. emotions or actions) through text based forms of communication.

Facebook have been experimenting with emoticons for quite a while now, allowing them to be tagged onto status updates and recently also introducing larger-than-life emoticons in the form of “stickers” in the new much talked about “Facebook Home” interface for Android/iOS.

But this time around, Facebook are really trying something new – and enlisting the help of some of the best professionals in the area.

Pixar artist Matt Jones has been lending a hand to Facebook in the development of these new icons.

About the project, Jones (a story illustrator at Pixar and former storyboard artist at the Wallace and Gromit Studios) said:

“Facebook was canny enough to realize that traditional emoticons are quite bland. At Pixar, we consider emotional states every day with every drawing we make. Our work is informed by the years of study we do, constantly studying people’s gestures and expressions in real life.”

Jones also mentioned that they had been experimenting with variation in colour, which seems interesting as the default yellow which seems to be the “norm” for these emoticons has always stuck me as a little odd. However, he mentioned that the typical Facebook blue colour looked a bit strange, so we will have to wait to find out what the final colour scheme Jones comes up with looks like.

A selection of Jones’s thumbnail sketches of “Finch”


The commission of an artist from a company such as Pixar seems a very logical decision – after all, Pixar are renowned for introducing emotion and personality to usually inanimate objects, so who better to inject a sense of real feeling into these sub-100 pixel images – but Facebook’s other ally in their path to emoticon perfection is a little more distant.

Jones’s inspiration stemmed from Darwin’s 1872 book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, which documented the emotional expressions displayed by humans and the similarities they share with those of other animals. Whilst this may seem like a fairly simple task by modern standards, it is important to consider that this work had a significant impact on our understanding of human emotion, and paved the way for psychologists in understanding and communicating with sufferers of autism in the 1970’s.

Photographs from Darwin’s 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.


It’s interesting to see the work of a great scientist of the past come together with the talent of a brilliant modern day animation artist to produce something that will become fairly integral in all of our daily social media lives. So far, Facebook has confirmed 16 icons from the collection by Jones, but with over 50 left in the set, we are likely to be seeing even more of him very soon! 🙂

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