Roger That: Emoji Translator

Inspired by Roger Federer’s icon-only approach, we created a font that turns the 2,000 most used English words into emoji. It was a fun experiment—until Apple opened the door to their Messages app…

The Iconic font extends the standard emoji set to cover the most common English words. It lets you type symbols that can be reversed into words. While Iconic makes riddles out of messages, these riddles can be easily deciphered as the text is not lost in Unicode: if you don’t understand a symbol someone sent you, tap on it to convert it back. We tested it in-house, and it’s great fun.

We now have a raw public beta that simulates how the writing part works. It has a couple of glitches. Don’t expect too much when typing past tense, conjunctives, and fancy lingo. You can play with it right here:


I love lemonsI love lemons – Start typing

The Iconic font is an experiment that evolved out of our research on icons, and the Iconic game. Inspired by Roger Federer’s Emoji overdrive, we called it Roger That. It was driven by the following questions:

Q: What happens if every word translates into an emoji?
A: It’s not useful but it’s a lot of fun.
Q: Which words translate well into symbols?
A: Things that have a clear shape.
Q: What techniques are there to translate words into pictures?
A: The same techniques as for Chinese and Japanese.
Q: Can we translates short abstract words like it, the, you, would in an understandable way?
A: Not really. Note: Chinese doesn’t have those words, Japanese mostly uses its syllable letters.
Q: Is there a way to technically create a message that encodes and decodes emoji back and forth?
A: Yes. And more than one.

Last week we learned that Apple will open up Messages for developers. We thought it would be cool to create an extension to let you use the Iconic font inside Messages. The next version of iA Writer will feature it as an easter egg. Here is our plan though:

So what do you think? Would you fancy a “Roger That” Messages extension that lets you type the 2,000 most common words as emoji? Vote for it on Twitter or Facebook by sending us a simple Yes or No answer. Snapchat is fine, too.

iA creates digital products. We offer strategic design and consulting services through our UX studios in Zurich, Tokyo and Berlin. To get in touch, just write a short mail to [email protected]. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive brief summaries of our articles and interviews.