Angela Guzman, retelling the story of her 2008 summer in Cupertino, where she and fellow designer Raymond created several hundred of Apple’s original emojis:
My first emoji was the engagement ring, and I chose it because it had challenging textures like metal and a faceted gem, tricky to render for a beginner. The metal ring alone took me an entire day. Pretty soon, however, I could do two a day, then three, and so forth. Regardless of how fast I could crank one out, I constantly checked the details: the direction of the woodgrain, how freckles appeared on apples and eggplants, how leaf veins ran on a hibiscus, how leather was stitched on a football, the details were neverending. I tried really hard to capture all this in every pixel, zooming in and zooming out, because every detail mattered. And for three months I stared at hundreds of emoji on my screen. […]
Sometimes our emoji turned out more comical than intended and some have a backstory. For example, Raymond reused his happy poop swirl as the top of the ice cream cone. Now that you know, bet you’ll never forget. No one else who discovered this little detail did either.
Apple’s visual approach to emoji is not only beautiful, but also fascinating when you consider how flat-looking iOS and MacOS are today. In fact, if you put a designer in front of iOS for a few hours and then had them draw up a few emoji concepts, you’d probably get images with far fewer textures, no gloss, and little to no depth. But that’s not what we have, and I’m glad. Additionally, I’ve always liked how Apple’s emoji feel like a distillation of and tribute to the original Mac OS X interface style, Aqua. I don’t necessarily miss all the realistic leather patterns and pill-filled buttons, but sometimes a little skeuomorphism goes a long way, and the current emoji feel just right.