This emoji could save your life

By Ben Walker on 24 July 2018

We all know that good illustration makes an instant impact. But how effective are simple images at communicating life-saving information quickly? Extremely effective, according to the scientists behind #emojiquake.

During a natural disaster, every second counts. Some of the world’s countries most at risk from disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis are also places where literacy levels are low or the population speaks a number of different languages. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time can undoubtedly save lives. Social media and the internet is increasingly becoming an emergency response tool, where people at risk can give real-time updates on the unfolding situation. As a result, the global search to find and develop a new internationally recognised emoji for earthquakes is on.

A group of scientists from the University of Southampton and the US Geological Survey recently launched the competition to find an emoji to warn populations of an impending earthquake. Under the #emojiquake hashtag, over 100 entries were made to the competition. Here are a couple of the contenders…

An illustration of an earthquake warning.

An illustration of an earthquake warning.


Dr Stephen Hicks, a University of Southampton seismologist and founder of the #emojiquake campaign explains: “Up to one third of the world’s population might be exposed to some seismological hazard, so we really want to be able to communicate to all of those regions, all of those different languages, and an emoji is an amazing way of doing that.”

Dr Sara McBride, social scientist with the US Geological Survey, added:

“Emoji can cross the boundaries of written language, helping communicate valuable information to people who may struggle to read a certain language… they help us communicate this complex threat faster to more people.”

Social Scientist
Sara McBride

The group of scientists are lobbying for the new emoji to be added to the Unicode set so it can be used on digital devices across the globe.

Early warning systems for earthquakes are already in use in certain parts of the world, such as Mexico and Japan, where alerts are issued across digital devices, as well as TV and radio. Simple illustrations have been used for a long time to convey potentially life-saving information – just think of the safety card on the back of the seat in front on aeroplanes.

Illustrations can be more than simply beautiful pictures – they can help you get an important message across clearly and effectively. Illustrations, along with icons and character drawings, can add personality and impact to your brand messages. Talk to us today to find out more about our illustration services.

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