Slack’s emoji reactions are playful product design in action

Last week Slack launched their Emoji reactions feature. This allows you to attach emoji to a message and for others to chime in and vote for an emoji or add their own. I am very excited by this for a number of reasons.


We use Slack fairly heavily. We have channels for specific projects and we have channels that create a frame of shared presence and cultural reference for our close network. In these channels we already use emoji and animated GIFs quite intensively. They are visual fragments of emotion that can be quickly thrown across the digital divide. Many people like to trivialise these but they are in fact essential non-verbal cues.

Slack nailed the product design of this new feature. That much is to be expected from a company with their track record. What makes it particularly relevant for me to write about here is that this feature is a great example of playful design. Kars identified it as flux in action because: “This is adding variability to what used to be one-dimensional.”

With the emoji feature Slack has identified an existing behaviour that they could better support. People respond to each other with emoji and other images. This is fun but it can quickly become overwhelming. Emoji reactions are just the right amount of functionality and structure to allow people to more richly express themselves. The result is more expressive interactions and more effective communication.

Emoji reactions is a great new feature that will see a lot of use (at least from us) and it demonstrates how playful design is a central part of product design.

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