Inside the Emoji Project: How our students aim to connect us in this time of disconnection

By Edwina Jackson (student)

Using their time in isolation inventively, five Trinitarians apply the ‘picture says a thousand words’ concept to develop emojis that could help connect us all.

Student with mobile phone

Picture this: you’re at home, sitting on your bed in your pyjamas, all warm and snuggly, with a hot drink. 

Seems like the life, doesn’t it?

Well, under normal circumstances, yes. But right now, you’re not voluntarily doing this. You’re being forced to stay home alone until the COVID-19 crisis ends. It’s not quite the dream life.

The only thing that makes you feel some normality is technology. So, you unlock your phone and start perusing. Tik Tok? No point, it feels like you’ve watched Every. Single. One. UberEats? Not again. News? You read that 10 minutes ago. All you see is ‘Coronavirus...’ anyway.

Instagram it is (for the umpteenth time today).

Swiping through the Insta-stories, you see some people having fun, but a lot of people suffering. Lost jobs, panic and crashing economies. Lonely photos depicting home isolation. At home in your pyjamas, you know one thing.

You too, feel very, very lonely. 

In the midst of this global pandemic, Trinity College students and alumni Lucie Clairs, Tom Grills, Cameron Grimwade, Claudia Huang and Edwina Jackson felt exactly the same. They found themselves relying heavily on technology to feel connected every day.

‘It’s quite stressful, how suddenly everything is changing,’ says Cameron. ‘So, I think now more than ever people need technology to communicate and express their feelings.’

It was this realisation that prompted the students to create the ‘Emoji Project’. Facilitated by ex-Trinitarian Alex Horton, the group got together late last year with the initial aim of promoting awareness of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), which include ending poverty, promoting gender equality, and building sustainable cities.

As the project progressed, the students felt more driven to create a real-time sense of unity using technology, so shifted their focus from the UNSDGs to something we communicate with every day: emojis.

‘By using the emoji form, I think our ideas for change are available to the masses, because emojis are just such a part of our everyday lives,’ says Lucie.

Claudia agrees. ‘I had seen so many technology-based campaigns and they had made such a difference. I thought, why not us?’

The students' aim became to create five unique emojis that represented the concepts they wanted to promote: wellbeing, community, growth and sustainability.

‘Concepts relevant in our society,’ Tom calls them.

Trinity College student emoji designs
The group's emoji designs

Jessie Downey, Trinity’s Wellbeing Coordinator, explains that ‘especially for those in isolation, technology is such an imperative lifeline to have.’

The Emoji Project fosters just that – virtual connection.

The students’ idea is that by posting the mental health emoji on your Instagram story, for example, you could be showing someone out there that you are thinking of them in their struggles.

‘A picture can say a thousand words,’ says Cameron. ‘We hope these little pictures can speak to the pains of isolation, suffering and loss [that people are experiencing], yet also speak to the nature of humanity to stand together.’

The Emoji Project comes as an example of Trinitarians at their best. With collaboration from both past and present students, the creative initiative that characterises our college is demonstrated. Initiative that helps brighten our days, just a little, in these unusual times. 

The group have submitted their emojis for review and are now waiting to see if their graphic submissions will be successful in making it onto the emoji keyboard.

In the meantime, there are plenty of other initiatives being run at Trinity to curb the impact of COVID-19. Fitness classes on the Bulpadock, corridor Zoom meetings, Tik Tok video competitions, and boundless creativity and communication. Building and maintaining community is the Trinity way, so near and far, it’s nice to know Trinitarians will always be looking out for each another.

By Edwina Jackson

30 Apr 2020