Windows 11's disappointing 2D emojis could still get a 3D upgrade

Windows 11 users rejoice: things are about to get a lot more colorful. Nando Costa, one of Microsoft's designers, shared a LinkedIn post that teases what the team is currently working on. It seems that a much-needed emoji update is on the agenda, finally bringing the existing emoji up-to-snuff with a refreshed 3D design.

This may not seem like huge news, but it's a lot bigger than it sounds, mostly because Microsoft has had a strangely long journey where emoji on Windows 11 are concerned. The company first teased an update to emoji in July 2021, showing hundreds of new, fresh, vibrant 3D designs in a blog post.

In the blog post from last summer, Microsoft emphasized the conscious choice it had to make to not only redesign emoji from 2D to 3D but also to animate the majority of them. It's not a small collection of emojis, either — Microsoft said that it worked to re-imagine over 1,800 different emojis. All of this was done in preparation for the launch of Windows 11, which took place in late 2021. However, when the operating system became available for purchase, users discovered that the emoji found in Windows 11 were not the cute designs Microsoft teased just a few months prior.

Costa details the journey the design team went on when designing the new emojis. Emphasizing diversity and inclusivity, the new emoji sets were meant to allow each user to express themselves across all Microsoft 365 platforms. While the current Windows 11 designs are similar, they lack the 3D factor that truly made them pop.

Some of the new emoji were animated, which Costa also shares examples of in his blog post. From simple sketches to full-on animated 3D, it's clear that a lot of work has gone into perfecting these designs. Costa doesn't explain why the current version of Windows 11 emojis is so lackluster in comparison, but he acknowledges that the team is working on bringing this original vision to life.

In addition to the over 1,800 emoji the team had to redesign, Microsoft also wants to introduce some new emojis that are supposed to give an accurate reflection of our lives in times of the pandemic. Centered around working from home, they are a playful representation of many Zoom meetings we've all had to sit through, complete with a suit jacket and pajamas combo.

The new emojis that rolled out with Windows 11 were still a change (and an upgrade) from Windows 10, but they were 2D designs that just felt strangely lacking. Everything was fresh and new, but the emoji were not quite there yet. Although many abandoned all hope for an updated design, it seems that Microsoft hasn't given up on giving the emoji a much-needed overhaul.

Updating from Windows 10 to Windows 11 is a big change, and the design of both of these operating systems is one of the reasons why the switch doesn't feel very seamless. That is not to say that Microsoft made a mistake with the choices it made for Windows 11. It's new, fresh, and a lot softer than previous versions of Windows, but that doesn't make it bad. However, it's hard to deny that the flat, iconographic emoji look somewhat jarring when paired with the gentle design of Windows 11.

Costa doesn't say how long it will be until we can all try out the brand-new emoji, but it's good to know that the team continues working on them. It would have been a shame to see these beautiful designs cast aside, never to be used, and replaced with the current (worse) versions.