We use emojis every day, car emoji included. They’re in text messages, emails, and social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They express our excitement, disdain, or lack of words in awkward situations. What started in the 90’s as “buddy icons” has now transformed into a pop culture phenomenon. With the release of The Emoji Movie, we knew these icons had left their mark – leaving behind the archaic symbols of the past for a world of emoji-filled communication. 

Today, emoji representation has expanded beyond belief. From the family icons to the inclusion of skin tone variation, these novel images have pushed the boundaries of social representation. What words leave open for interpretation, the emoji defines with clarity. While a thumbs up emoji confirms approval, the nauseated face expresses a night gone wrong. No matter the situation or feeling, we can appreciate the powerful message of an emoji. Just one smiley face could do the trick of making somebody’s day. 

Oftentimes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and emojis must live up to that expectation. Without clear representation, a normal conversation between friends could easily become misconstrued. Consumers expect high expectations from designers to depict realistic and recognizable images. They want these small icons to symbolize their thoughts, objects, or feelings without jeopardizing character. With that being said, there is one emoji that is often met with criticism: the automobile

What went wrong?

When we think of a car emoji, we imagine an accurate representation of vehicles on the road today. Those glistening LED headlights, sleek body shapes, and pearlescent colors. We think contemporary designs and recognizable features. Although we can’t expect a 2020 Jeep Gladiator to grace the screens of our emoji list, we do expect more than the tiny toy car that currently resides there. The car emoji is outdated and in desperate need of an upgrade to become more in tune with consumer demand. We rely on these emojis to add humor to a conversation or communicate when words just don’t suffice. Therefore, the representation must be right. 

Red and more red

Almost every car emoji on Emojipedia is red. We can’t help but ask why? Major corporations, like Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung – companies that drive our digital communications, have all chosen red exteriors for their car emojis. Although there is nothing wrong with the color red, it lacks representation for the majority of vehicles on the road. Some of the nation’s best-selling car colors include black, blue, and silver – options that we typically expect a car emoji to be. Maybe the automobile emoji wouldn’t be so bad if some color variety was available. One thing is for certain, that universal red has definitely lost its shine. 

Disproportionate shapes

Is the color of the car emoji the most important problem? Definitely not. The problem comes down to authenticity. The shapes and body styles of the car emoji are disproportionate and awkward. It resembles the toy car you once played with as a child. While it might represent a short list of brands on the auto market, specifically in Europe, it does not cater to the typical American ride. Apple’s representation of a sport utility vehicle is no better. This vehicle is simultaneously known as a campervan, motorhome, and RV. After one look at the Apple SUV emoji, it is hard to believe this icon could represent a campervan, let alone a SUV. 

Craving creativity in the car emoji

The digital avenue, Slack, recently allowed a graphic designer to customize new emojis for their platform. With the recent increase in remote work, designer, Jen Lewis, created a set of emojis that embody the work-from-home lifestyle. These images include a socially distanced high five, a dog on a leash, and a cat walking across a keyboard. Slack knows the times have changed – and sometimes, new and improved emojis are just what we need. 

Just as Slack saw the need for better representation in the workplace, so do avid users of text, email, and social media. Consumers want the same level of creativity to be applied to the automobile emoji and every icon that is meant to stand for something. Hopefully one day we’ll look back and laugh at the fact that this was ever a newsworthy topic. Until then, the need for universal representation will likely push us forward. 

Your daily dose of emoji 

With the recent celebration of World Emoji Day, we remain excited for what’s to come. Emojis have given us a relaxed way of expressing ourselves, while adding visual playfulness to our conversations. Whether it’s a smiley face with heart-eyes or a simple red heart, these images play a part in our everyday communication. For now, we must settle for the less than glamorous automobile emoji – with hope that a new and improved version is already on the way. When all is said and done, we have to thank the creators of these iconic images for transforming the way we communicate now and the future to come. 

Michaella Malone
Hello! My name is Michaella Malone. I am a graduate of Florida State University with a B.A. in English. I am a freelance writer with varied experience in ghostwriting, blogging, and resume building. I have additional knowledge in creating content for ESL curriculums.

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    1. The design is a little stale. They may want to consider different styles for the car emoji since there is more than one vehicle variation.

    2. I love this article. Super fun to read, and I completely agree. I demand better car emojis! 🙂

    3. So true, we need better car emojis, the current ones are so weak. Let’s get some sports cars and real SUVs.

    4. Emojis need to be highly specific to describe things better if we want them to be more useful. Also, this video describes why people expect cars to be boring colors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab2u-iGN3uk

    5. That car is definitely facing the wrong way!!!!!!!!!

    6. I must admit, I don’t think I have ever used the car emojis. I am typically more of a faces girl. I scrolled over and it was quite comical. The faces have come a long way but somehow the cars are still very cartoonish. I get it they are cartoons, but thy definitely have the ability to make them look a bit more advance than what is out there. I will say the article mentioned the car being red. I do have a blue car option as well as an outdated taxi.

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