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Enter Mexico City's Official Emoji Design Contest

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June 21, 2017

Mexico City - Cities are full of icons and symbols - a visual vernacular that conveys both necessary information and a sense of place to visitors and residents. Wayfinding icons and street signs help people navigate a city and its resources, regardless of the language they speak. And some parts of an urban landscape even become symbols of a city itself: the Eiffel Tower represents Paris, for example, or San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge.

In Mexico City, the local government is seeking to expand its own visual lexicon, with an official emoji sticker pack that will represent the city. On Friday, the city announced an open design competition that asks participants to capture the city in 20 digital symbols.

The hope is that the contest will not only result in emojis that resonate with Mexico City citizens but also offer data on how residents relate to the city and communicate the culture of Mexico in general.

"Emojis have become an aesthetic, a playful way of communicating," says Gabriella Gómez-Mont, the founder and director of Laboratorio para la Ciudad, the city's experimental office for civic innovation and urban creativity, which is running the contest.

The lab opted to keep the design brief relatively open - it asks designers to design 20 emoji that represent Mexico City, and submit the vector files by July 16.

The judges - Emoji Dick author Fred Benenson, journalist and creator of the Dumpling Emoji Jenny 8 Lee, and the Mexican designers Federico Jordan and Oscar Estrada, among others - will evaluate submissions based on their creativity, originality, and capacity to communicate ideas.

"We're very intrigued with the relationship between a person and a megalopolis, how people actually relate to it, and what emotional and visual responses will we get," says Gómez-Mont.

Emoji expert Zoe Mendelson, who organized the contest and also serves as a judge (and who has also written for Fast Company), says that the idea for the sticker pack came about because creating one emoji to represent the entire city was improbable. Plus, whittling down a city as huge as Mexico City into one symbol would likely prove difficult. Per Mendelson's recommendation, the lab chose to create its own sticker pack that will be downloadable on Google Play and the App Store, and to ask citizens to design it.

The contest is being sponsored by the production company The Lift, as well as local design organizations; no public money is being spent on the project. The winner, which will be announced on July 30, will receive $30,000 MXN (about $1,600 USD) and the honor of seeing their designs realized as the official Mexico City emoji.

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