Emoji seek racial diversity with six skin tones for 2015

Smilies were created in yellow to be race neutral.

By Aaron smith

(CNNMoney) – Emoji are going to be racially diverse, with the launch of the first black and white emoji next year.

Unicode, the organization that develops emojis, said that a diverse series of skin tones will be available when Unicode Version 8.0 is released in June 2015.

This will include not just the existing yellows, but five other shades, ranging from pink and brown to black.

“People around the world want to have an emoji that reflects more human diversity, especially for skin tone,” said Unicode, in a report with design recommendations.

Emoji are text telephone pictograms known as emoticons used to express feelings. The faces are yellow, with a skin tone that mimics the Caucasian characters in The Simpsons.

Emoji were developed in Japan in 1999 for mobile phones. In Japanese, emoji means character written in picture.

They were originally intended to be race neutral, similar to the people with gray skin in Ursula Le Guin’s science fiction novel The Celestial Wheel.

“Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are intended to be generic,” the Unicode document said. “However, after the precedents set by the original Japanese images, they are often shown with a light skin tone rather than a more generic appearance.”

Unicode 8.0 adds a series of skin tones that “are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology.” Developed in 1975 by Harvard dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick, the scale classifies human skin color based on its response to ultraviolet light.