Swift By Emoji: A considered approach

Not too long ago Iain Delaney pointed me to this graphic:


The graphic was designed by Steve Luscher and written about by Joey Devilla in this blog post on Global Nerdy. I thought it was brilliant and inspiring.

It wasn’t written in Swift and certainly wasn’t running in Swift. I decided to play around: I built a playground, assigning massive lists of emoji strings to emoji variables, and got these examples running properly using Swift syntax.


Rather than use a pile of poo, which assumes at each stage of reduction you’re combining poo with a new food, I went with Jaden Geller’s recommendation on Twitter. In the Swift version, the reduction starts with a sad face and becomes happy and satisfied.

I played around with other foods to see if it was worth expanding the samples but it was never quite as clean or elegant as the simple 4-item original:


Stepping away from the cow/potato/chicken/corn space, I wanted to see if there might be a better filter than isVegetarian. A child makes amusing (if not nutritious) food choices:


And then I thought, well what about other Swift language essentials. So I mocked up the concept of naming items by whether they are mutating or non-mutating:


And repeating:


And sorted (although this one could probably use some better food choices):


Zipping was an obvious win as well:


And map vs flatMap:


Unfortunately, a soccer ball is not a valid character identifier so I couldn’t bitcast between a European football and an America one. Inconsistent Emoji character sets made me sad. Swift needs a standards-based operator and identifier makeover:


By the time I started playing with fatalError, I realized I was spending way too much time on this:


Do you have any favorite Swift functionality that lends itself to emojification? I’ve showed you mine. Now, show me yours.

Update: Phil Aaronson suggests using emoji functions too.

Ideally, examples should be able to compile and run in a Swift playground but I’m open to concepts that can be better explained with Emoji even when implementation is tricky.


  • Thanks for the post. Do you have the final code available on GitHub?

  • […] an exercise after reading a description of Erica Sadun’s talk and some posts of hers on the emoji as function name idea. I happened to read this around the time that I was needing to layout a number of views […]