Emoji Salad

Designing a digital personality.


Redefining interface

I am one of the founding members of Siblings, a design collective dedicated to solving unique problems with design strategy.

We challenged ourselves to think about some of the crutches that we use as designers, and decided to build an app by removing one of the most glaring crutches used in interface design—the visual interface itself.

A mobile game with nothing to download

Emoji Salad is an SMS-based chatbot game, which allows you and your friends to play a Pictionary-style game using emoji. There’s nothing to download—the app is used through SMS text messaging, using a group text thread. The whole game is facilitated by Emojibot, a chatbot with personality.


Our goal was to build a game with nothing for players to learn. With no buttons or visuals to guide players, we ensured that users are able to navigate the game, using a bot as a mediator and host.


Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Before writing any code, we wanted to test out our idea to get a feeling for the game and to see how people would engage with the bot.

I gathered friends in a regular iMessage thread, and for a time “played the role” of Emojibot in the conversation. I would facilitate the game just like we hoped the bot would, and reacted to users’ messages. This gave us a feel of the user flows, and the expected (and unexpected) cases we would need to design for.


In social psychology, this is called ‘paving the cowpath‘—looking at where the paths are already being formed by behavior and then formalizing them.


Using this “fake it ‘til you make it“ experience, we were able to learn how players interact with Emojibot, and create a more human experience by anticipating players’ reactions.


Personality by design

The team wanted to get a good sense of who Emojibot could be to different types of players. This included understanding the ways in which personality can be categorized, so that we could tailor the experience to our users for specific positive experiences.

We created a series of “personality scales”. Each of us wrote down a selection of celebrities or fictional characters that we thought had unique or strong personalities. We then created a few scales, like Enthusiastic vs. Understated, Silly vs. Dry, or my personal favorite, Level-of-shit-togetherness.


Putting it all together

Caring about the personality of Emojibot helps users engage and connect to our game much more deeply than the standard messaging we started off with.


We presented our work at Emojicon, the first annual conference dedicated to all things emoji.


We continued to build out the game, get it in the hands of people across the world, and had over 300 games going with players actively guessing and creating stories through emoji.


I love doing this type of work, and applying design methodologies to anything from complex trading systems to chatbots. If you’re hoping to create novel, memorable experiences, and use human-centered processes to make sure the product turns out great, then you should certainly get in touch.

Back to Case Studies »