Depending on your disposition, Shigetaka Kurita is the man to thank/curse for making the world a more charming/irritating place. He’s responsible for creating emoji, the pat ideograms or ‘smileys’ first popularised in Japanese electronic messaging services and web forums. Back in 1995, pagers were still the rage and market leading telecommunications manufacturer NTT Docomo was working on i-mode, or what would become the first widely used mobile internet protocol. Email was also just entering the public consciousness, but the form struggled to convey the intricacies of emotional tone that are central to the Japanese language. Kurita realised that if he created a pictorial language that could fit within the twele-by-twelve pixel parameters, it would provided an enhanced level of emotional expressiveness (as well as a unique hook for customers).
I ♥ Money
The “I ♥” logo has proved incredibly versatile over its life time, fitting into a diverse set of contexts, and this is perhaps key to explaining why it has become so lucrative. It currently makes around $30 million a year through associated merchandising sales. The logo is itself now something of an autonomous brand, with recent licensing growth spurts in the far east and in Europe. Of course, Glaser produced the logo for free, working pro bono for the state of New York, and has received absolutely no direct financial advantage from his design. It wasn’t even copyrighted for the first decade of its use, as the intention was for the city and its inhabitants to use it freely to advertise their city.