Since emojis have opened so many doors to self-expression in the cyber world that we live in, urban innovators at Laboratorio Par La Ciudad (literally Laboratory For The City) organized an emoji contest challenging designers across Mexico City to capture the city in 20 symbols. The contest ran in June, with the winning emojis coming out just this week.

Laboratario Par La Ciudad was founded when mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera approached Gabriella Gomez-Mont to co-create an “innovations lab” for the city. Gómez-Mont founded Laboratorio Par La Ciudad in 2013 as the city’s office for civic innovation and urban creativity.

The idea for the competition was born when Mexico City was looking for a single emoji to brand the city with, but found it “improbable,” as described by emoji expert Zoe Mendelson, who organized the contest and also served as a judge. Instead, the team decided to produce an emoji sticker pack representing the city that will be sold as souvenirs. The deadline for vector submission was July 16 and the judging was based on the designs’ creativity, originality, and capacity to communicate ideas. First place went to Itzel Oropeza Castillo, second place went to Eduardo Camacho Mayén and Pedro Rodrigo Grajeda Ortega, and third place went to Ivonne Andrea Torres and Martin Robert Cook.

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An emoji with an arm around Mexico City’s Torre Latino – a skyscraper and important landmark in the city’s downtown. Designed by first-place winner Itzel Oropeza. All photos courtesy of Laboratorio Par La Ciudad.

“Emojis have become an aesthetic, a playful way of communicating,” says Gómez-Mont. “We’re very intrigued with the relationship between a person and a megalopolis, how people actually relate to it, and what emotional and visual responses will we get,” she adds, explaining that the submissions are an “emotional thermometer” of the city. To Mendelson, it’s a way of showcasing how different citizens imagine their city.

The contest was sponsored by a group of local design organizations led by Mexican production company The Lift, meaning that the city didn’t pump any public money into the project. The first-place winner, Itzel Oropeza, received MX$30,000  (around US$1,600).

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Frida Kahlo emoji. Designed by second-place winners Eduardo Camacho Mayén and Pedro Rodrigo Grajeda Ortega.

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Designed by Itzel Oropeza.

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Designed by Itzel Oropeza.

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Designed by third-place winner: Ivonne Andrea Torres and Martin Robert Cook.

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An “elote” emoji; which is a popular street snack. Designed by Eduardo Camacho Mayén and Pedro Rodrigo Grajeda Ortega.

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A “Xochimilco boat” emoji, designed by Eduardo Camacho Mayén and Pedro Rodrigo Grajeda Ortega.

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