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Elevator emoji

Want to create a new emoji? How to submit an emoji proposal


How do new emojis get added to your phone? Speaking as someone who submitted an emoji proposal to Unicode, I know the ins and outs of the process! Here’s everything you need to know about requesting an emoji idea.

Everyone’s got one awesome fact that when they tell it, everyone goes, ‘oh wow, that’s so cool!’

Perhaps you’re related to someone famous or competed in an event with a million-to-one chance of winning.

My amazing fact? I successfully submitted an emoji proposal. 

Yep, if you’ve ever used the lift (or elevator for our American friends) emoji on WhatsApp or Facebook, I wrote the proposal for it.

I know, I know, it’s not the most sexy emoji. It’s not a taco or the smiling face with hearts. But it’s still a pretty cool achievement nonetheless, right?

If you’ve ever wondered about the emoji proposal process or how new emojis get added, I’ve put together this guide to talk you through how everything works.

How the lift emoji came to be

Elevator emoji

Many years ago, I was the marketing manager for a lift maintenance company. 

We were in the office throwing out campaign ideas, and the subject of World Emoji Day came up.

(17 July if you’re interested.)

‘Oh, we should submit a proposal for a lift emoji’, I said. 

At this point I had no idea who you had to contact to submit an emoji, how long it would take, whether you had to pay – anything.

‘That’s a great idea!’ said the team. So I toddled off to see my boss, the Sales and Marketing Director, to see what he thought.

‘That’s a great idea!’ He said. Looks like I had a new task to add to my already at-capacity to-do list.

So, I did some research and found out where you had to submit an emoji idea– an organisation called Unicode. I’ll explain who they are and what they do a little later.

I read the guidelines, drafted a proposal, and sent it off. To be fair, we didn’t expect anything to happen after that. 

The aim was to put a blog post and press release out in time for Emoji Day saying we submitted a proposal, and that would be the end of the campaign.

However a little while later, I got an email back from Unicode. They liked the emoji proposal and wanted us to pad it out a little more, with the aim of adding a lift emoji to version 13.0 of the Unicode standard.

I nearly fell off my chair. I think my boss nearly fell off his chair too.

So we made some tweaks, and Unicode added the emoji proposal to the shortlist. We waited a while, and the lift emoji made the final cut.

And that was that. It’s not the most exciting story, but hey, it’s how it happened.

p.s – Looking for an emoji proposal example? My elevator emoji proposal is still on the Unicode website if you want to read it.

So, what is Unicode?

Unicode homepage

Unicode is the organisation that is responsible for how letters and numbers appear on devices worldwide.

Before Unicode, letters and numbers were encoded on different computer systems and in different countries in different ways. Unicode standardised things, making communication clearer and easier.

As part of its responsibilities, Unicode manages existing and new emojis. It assigns a code to each emoji, offering standardisation across different devices. 

This means that if you send a smiley face emoji from an iOS device to your friend on an Android phone, nothing is lost in translation.

So, if you want to request a new emoji to be made or to amend an existing emoji, you need to speak to Unicode.

Submitting an emoji proposal? This is what you need to do

If you want to create a new emoji, you need to submit an emoji proposal to Unicode. This is a detailed document that shows there is public demand for your emoji and that it’s a new and innovative suggestion.

You can find a detailed list of what you must include in your emoji proposal on the Unicode website.

Let’s look at what you need to do if you want to request an emoji, in order of submission.


Your title for your emoji proposal needs to describe the emoji you’re suggesting. Make it as descriptive as possible.

It should be along the lines of Proposal for emoji: XXXXX.

If your emoji makes the cut, this title will be its CLDR short name.

As an FYI – Unicode may change this name if it doesn’t think it fits.

Name of submitter and date

Next, include the name of the person submitting the emoji proposal. 

You can include multiple authors, but you need to mark one as the main point of contact. This is who Unicode will reach out to if your application progresses.

Also include the date you’re submitting the proposal. If you’re submitting a revised proposal, don’t forget to update the date.

Unicode is an American organisation, so as strange as it may seem if you’re a Brit like me, go mm-dd-yy to avoid confusion.


When you’re searching for the right emoji to use, you can often find the same emoji through different keywords.

So in the US, this emoji is known as a ‘check’, but in the UK, it’s called a ‘tick’.

Check mark emoji

In this section you need to list the keywords people might use to find your emoji. This list isn’t set in stone, but try to include three or four keyword ideas. 

This emoji list on the Unicode site will give you some inspiration.

For the emoji proposal I sent in, the official CLDR short name was ‘elevator’ (’cause America), and the keywords were ‘lift’ and ‘hoist’. 

Unicode added ‘accessibility’ as a keyword too, which I didn’t think of then, but makes a lot of sense.


In this section of your emoji proposal, you need to advise what category your emoji will sit under.

Again, this is just a suggestion, and Unicode may put it somewhere else. 

I recommended that the lift emoji went under the travel/transport category, but Unicode put it in the household category instead.

Unicode categories

(I don’t know many houses with their own lift, but kudos to you if you have one.)


As part of your submission, you have to provide a proof of concept for how your emoji will look. You need to provide four images:

    • A colour image that is 72 by 72 pixels
    • A black and white image that is 72 by 72 pixels
    • A colour image that is 18 by 18 pixels
    • A black and white image that is 18 by 18 pixels

    Examples of images for emoji proposal

    Why the variation? 

    Unicode wants to see if your emoji is identifiable without colour and at a small size.

    Bear in mind that greyscale emojis aren’t accepted – the elevator emoji I submitted was greyscale, but it might be that the rules have changed between my proposal and now. 

    Either that or Unicode took pity on me.

    It’s unlikely that Unicode will use your design for the final emoji. Individual platforms design their own graphics for each emoji anyway. So don’t panic if your images are a little crunchy.

    Here’s how the lift emoji looks on different platforms.

    Examples of elevator emojis

    Now the big thing – you must certify that you own the images or that they are open source and Unicode can use them. A line in your proposal saying this will suffice – as far as I’m aware, you don’t need to provide proof of ownership.

    If you don’t your proposal will be null and void.


    I included an introduction in my emoji proposal to set the scene and explain why a lift emoji would benefit people.

    However, you don’t have to do this – Unicode is happy for you to jump straight into the nitty gritty.

    Factors for inclusion

    Why should Unicode include your emoji proposal in the next emoji update? This is the section where you plead your case.

    Data and statistics are crucial here – you have to back up everything you say with cold, hard evidence. Screenshots and links to trusted websites are good sources of information.

    Let’s look at all the unique factors you have to address.

    Expresses multiple concepts

    Unicode likes emojis that can multitask. In this section, include additional examples of what your proposed emoji can signify.

    For example, the lift emoji doesn’t just represent a mechanical device that takes you between floors. You can use it to signify accessibility or upward or downward social mobility.

    Can be used with other emoji to convey additional concepts

    Can you use your emoji alongside other emojis to signify new ideas and concepts?

    For example, you can use the elevator emoji alongside the megaphone emoji to represent an ‘elevator’ pitch or the musical note emoji to represent ‘elevator music’.

    Musical note emoji

    I recommend going through each existing emoji one by one and thinking about how you can combine it with your proposed emoji.

    Breaks new ground

    Is your emoji new and different? There might be emojis currently in play that can easily represent the concept of your proposed emoji.

    Wine glass emoji

    For example, there is already a red wine emoji. This means there is an argument against a white wine emoji because wine is already represented.

    Is legible and visually distinctive

    Your emoji needs to be easily identifiable at first glance – if you have to explain what it is, you need to go back to the drawing board.

    Think of the images you created for this proposal. Could you show them to a random person, and would they understand what you mean?

    It’s also crucial that your emoji stands out from any existing emojis, especially on a small mobile screen.

    Small emojis on mobile

    Has a high usage level

    This is where things get interesting. You need to provide evidence that your emoji will be well-used, with screenshots.

    When I submitted my emoji proposal, you were allowed to provide screenshots of people demanding your emoji on social media as proof of popularity – you can’t do this anymore.

    It’s a shame, as people were getting incredibly fired up about getting an elevator emoji!

    Someone requesting an elevator emoji on social media

    You also had to choose the emoji you wanted to benchmark against – I used ‘ambulance’. Now Unicode asks you to compare against ‘elephants’ – an emoji with medium-range popularity.

    Elephant emoji

    So, what must you do for this part of the emoji proposal? You need to provide screenshots of your emoji search term versus elephant as a search term on the following platforms:

    (Ngram Viewer shows you how often a search term is mentioned in printed sources like books. I know; I had never heard of it either.)

    Here are some additional things to consider when running your searches:

    • Use Incognito mode (or your browser’s private mode) to ensure your search history doesn’t affect the results
    • If your search term is more than one word long, use a hyphen to group the term together
    • If your search term could lead to irrelevant results, add an additional term to clarify the results. For example, ‘animal fly’
    • If you can set a start/end date (for example, in Google Trends), use the broadest possible range
    • If your search term has high usage in a language other than English, include these search results in your proposal
    • If Google isn’t available in your region, you may use an alternative search engine


    Does your proposal fill a gap in the existing emoji sets?

    Unicode gives the example of the zodiac – there are twelve emoji that represent the Western zodiac. If one were missing, you could mention it in this section to complete the set.

    It’s not a deal breaker if your emoji doesn’t complete any existing sets – just say this section doesn’t apply to your proposal.


    This factor is highly likely not to affect your proposal, just as most platforms are now fully compatible with the Unicode standard.

    However, if your emoji proposal helps ensure compatibility and consistency across the board on platforms like Snapchat, this is the place to mention it.

    Factors for exclusion

    As well as looking at why Unicode should accept your emoji, you must also look at what may exclude your emoji proposal from being included.

    It sounds weird, talking Unicode out of accepting your proposal, right? However this section is a fantastic opportunity to explain why your emoji should make the grade.

    Already representable

    Can your emoji be represented by another emoji or a sequence of emojis?

    For example, when I submitted the elevator emoji, I mentioned that some people might use the existing door emoji as a lift substitute. 

    However, a door takes you from one room to another on the same floor, while a lift takes you up and down.

    Overly specific

    If your emoji proposal is a variant of an existing emoji – it runs the risk of being overly specific.

    Sushi emoji

    Unicode gives the example of sushi. The sushi emoji represents sushi in general, although there are lots of different types of sushi. While having an emoji for every kind of sushi available would be pretty rad, this just wouldn’t be feasible.

    This section is the ideal place to reiterate how your emoji stands out on its own and isn’t just a copy of an existing emoji.


    If Unicode approves your emoji, will it mean other emojis must be added to complement it?

    Take dog breeds. If you start adding lots of different types of dog breed emojis, like German Shepherds and St Bernards, Unicode may need to start adding additional emojis like Cockerpoos and Golden Retrievers.


    When emojis are added to the Unicode standard, they stay there permanently. This means they need to stand the test of time.

    In this section, you need to show that your proposed emoji isn’t a fad. Google Trends reporting is helpful here, and you can also refer to news articles from respected sources that talk about future trends.

    For the elevator emoji proposal, I talked about how city and town infrastructure was changing and how buildings were becoming taller – meaning more lifts.

    Faulty comparison

    Just because an existing emoji is in the Unicode standard, it doesn’t mean your emoji proposal is also a guaranteed candidate for inclusion.

    For example, just because there’s a peacock emoji doesn’t mean there should be a peahen emoji.

    Any other information

    If there is any additional information that you want to mention that you feel will increase the odds of Unicode accepting your emoji proposal, feel free to include it.

    What happens after you request an emoji?

    When I submitted the first proposal for the lift emoji, I didn’t hear anything back for a while.

    Then, I received an email from Unicode advising that they would like to discuss the emoji proposal in the upcoming subcommittee meeting. They provided some recommendations to bolster the proposal, and asked if I could look at stairs as part of the proposal too.

    So that’s why the version of the elevator proposal that’s on the website factors in stairs too. However, Unicode didn’t accept the stairs proposal in the end.

    (Interestingly, while submitting proposals that included multiple emoji in the past was okay, you can’t do that anymore. One proposal, one emoji.)

    Then, it was a case of waiting to see how things progressed. Communication dried up after this point, so I checked the emoji request list to make sure the lift emoji was still standing strong.

    The Unicode emoji proposal list – things to bear in mind

    What else do you need to know about submitting an emoji to Unicode?

    I can’t claim my experiences were the same as everyone else’s, but here are some thoughts about the overall process.

    Check the list first

    Before you begin writing your emoji proposal, check the status of the emoji request list. It might be that Unicode is currently discussing your chosen emoji or has declined it.

    List of accepted and declined emojis

    If Unicode has said no, you’re unable to resubmit it for two years after the date of submission.

    This can save a lot of hassle – writing an emoji proposal takes time and resources!

    The odds aren’t in your favour

    Earlier I mentioned that once emojis enter the Unicode standard, they aren’t retired. That’s why there are some weird old emojis, like the mobile signal bars.

    Mobile signal bars emoji

    This means fewer and fewer emojis are approved each year.

    You need to have a watertight emoji proposal, and even if you do, there’s no guarantee that Unicode will accept your document.

    If you manage to create a new emoji – that’s great! But I recommend submitting your emoji with the expectation that it won’t come to fruition.

    That way, you won’t be disappointed.

    Understand that some emojis are deal-breakers

    You don’t want to waste hours working on an emoji proposal only for Unicode to chuck it out straight away.

    Some emojis are a big no-no. These include:

      • Logos
      • Flags
      • Signs
      • Images that include text
      • Specific people, buildings, and locations
      • Religious figures

      Unicode also doesn’t accept proposals to change the orientation of an existing emoji. So you can’t put your thing down. flip it. and reverse it.

      Read the Unicode guidelines from start to finish

      The Unicode guidelines change from time to time – in my opinion, the 2024 guidelines are a lot tougher than the 2018 guidelines!

      For example, I was allowed to include screenshots of people asking for the elevator emoji from social media, but you’re not allowed to do this anymore.

      Before you start putting your emoji proposal together, read the guidelines and understand what you must do. If you don’t include all the necessary information, it may mean Unicode throws your proposal out.

      You will be waiting a long time

      Even if your emoji proposal is successful, you have to wait a long time to see it appear on your iPhone.

      We got unlucky with dates – we submitted our proposal a week after the deadline, so we had to wait for the following year’s rollout.

      To give you some context, we submitted our initial emoji proposal in March 2018 and a revised proposal in November of the same year. Unicode started rolling the update out to phones in January 2020.

      At that point, I’d left my job at the lift maintenance company, and the business hadn’t capitalised on the success of it, which was a real shame.

      Unicode has now implemented specific timeframes for submitting emojis – if you’re out of the timeframe, you can’t submit a proposal. 

      These dates are listed on the Unicode website. Alternatively I recommend signing up to the Did Someone Say Emoji newsletter which will give you a heads up when it’s emoji proposal season!

      Don’t bother with petitions

      If you go to, you’ll see many petitions campaigning for different emojis.

      Emoji proposals on

      This is cute and all, but it won’t help your cause.

      The only way to request an emoji is to go through Unicode. And if you do this, you can’t use an emoji petition as proof there’s demand for your emoji. This is because it’s too easy to skew the results in your favour.

      Taco Bell ran a campaign on for a taco emoji, which got over 32,000 signatures. 

      However, Unicode advised that the campaign was successful because Taco Bell wrote a solid emoji proposal and not because the petition got a lot of attention.

      Taco petition on

      If you want to run a marketing campaign around your emoji proposal submission – go for it; we did when we submitted ours. But don’t expect Unicode to see it and drop everything to add your emoji suggestion into the mix.

      Ready to submit an emoji idea?

      I hope this guide has shed some light on how to request an emoji. Remember that evidence is critical to your proposal – Unicode works on data, not hearsay and conjecture.

      Good luck if you’re submitting an emoji icon – I’d love to know if you send a proposal!