In general, emoji that consist of a symbol on a square plate have had their colors toned down and have received a bit of gloss. Everyday objects have had their outlines and gradients removed in favor of flatter shapes. Many have been redesigned completely, including buildings, clothing, food, travel, and sports. And for consistency, some of the people emoji have been tweaked, like the scissors in the hair-cutting emoji (to match their redesigned scissor emoji counterpart). Move the slider left and right to compare old emoji with the new style.
Google uses the open source Noto Emoji project to offer its Android and Chrome OS emoji, and its most recent release is a major one. Our previous update was in September, and now this new one is making changes all over the place: fine-tuning colours and textures, changing shading and placement, and covering everything from numbers and symbols to fruits and vegetables.
On the more subtle side, we’ve spotted tweaks to faces including open eyes in the mask emoji (presumably to make it more suitable to encourage preventative masking instead of only indicating a sick person). To my eye, the overall aesthetic has seemed to shift back in the direction of earlier Android emoji, returning to a flatter and almost blob-like playful style. There’s no word on when these redesigned emoji will make their way into Android or Chrome OS — and they don’t appear to include any of the new 2021 proposals — but with Android 12 on the horizon, it’s a good bet we’ll see them in action soon.