Here’s The Reason Why Emojis Are Yellow & Not Skin Colour Coded

Do you remember when WhatsApp was launched and we were exposed to a deluge of yellow coloured emoticons aka emojis? I am talking about these buggers which are slightly less annoying than Minions:

Image: smh.com.au

So, have you wondered why are they yellow and not skin colour coded?

The legendary yellow

Well, it isn’t the first time an animated character is yellow—Spongebob Squarepants, Simpsons, Lego people, Pikachu and of course, the aforementioned Minions are all made of bananas.

Before you start projecting your inner SJW as to why a human emoji character is yellow, let’s take a deeper look into this colour-based enigma.

Racially diverse emojis

Now, we have more racially diverse emojis to choose from—not stuck with just yellow, we have the option to choose from the different skin colour codes – light-skinned to dark-skinned emojis.

Image: cultofmac.com

So, if you take a look at your WhatsApp, you will have five different shades alongside the OG colour, yellow.

Image: bustle.com

This is where the bone of contention started—is the yellow emoji part of the racially diverse emojis?

Is it supposed to represent a specific race?

Does it have jaundice?

I would go with the latter. I am just joking.

Who created emojis

To really solve a mystery, we have to get to the root of the problem.

According to The Huffington Post, Unicode Consortium is the ingenious organisation that comes up with the prototype for the emojis

They decide what is the shape and description of each emoji should be, anything after that such as the colour is not under their control.

The codes behind the emoji

I might have to get a little technical here but bear with me.

So Unicode mentioned in their report about the introduction of the racially diverse emojis and they were kind enough to explain it to us in layman terms.

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They start with the blank canvas which in this case is a yellow-coloured character and it has a specific code to it.

They had to add a modifier to the code to get the specific skin colour and they chose the 5 different skin tones using the Fitzpatrick scale (a recognized tool for dermatological research about skin colour).

Image: unicode.org

So with the right modifier, they birthed this beautiful boy.

Image: unicode.org

So without the modifier, you will get the prototype, a generic, non-realistic skin tone such as yellow (FFCC22).

Image: colorhexa.com

Why is the default colour yellow?

The reason why Apple chose yellow instead of the using the default skin colour code to be the colour for the default emoji is arbitrary.

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Probably the same reason why the previously mentioned animated characters are yellow.

So simply put, the yellow-coloured emoji isn’t part of the diverse skin colour palette. It’s all just about codings – the OG is yellow, so yellow becomes the standard.


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