Communication is always evolving, and that even includes emojis, the malleable, pint-sized icons of faces, objects and symbols available on most smartphones.
Like any local with a love of Bawlmerese, Ross Nochumowitz wanted more options to reflect his love of his city, so the Mount Washington resident created an app titled Baltimore Emojis by Baltimore in a Box. (Nochumowitz is also the owner of Baltimore in a Box, another locally-minded business that sends care packages of famous Baltimore items around the world.)
The app, which was only designed for Apple’s iOS operating system, features 60 icons of familiar Baltimore imagery like a brown bag of Zeke’s Coffee, cans of local beer by Union Craft Brewing and The Brewer’s Art, Edgar Allan Poe and a Baltimore “Greatest City in America” bench. Some are obvious, like the Maryland state flag and Natty Boh, while others are surreal (how will you use the Big Boyz Bail Bond pen or Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s smiling face?).
“They cover a lot of ground as far as Baltimore goes,” Nochumowitz said on the phone this afternoon. His favorite is the can of Old Bay Hot.
On Tuesday, Nochumowitz submitted the app to Apple’s App Store. He expects an answer next week, and upon approval, the emojis will then become available. The app will be free, he said, and the plan is to keep it that way.
Early in the conversation, Nochumowitz wanted to be clear about the app’s usage. Similar to the app of emojis released by the Ravens recently, these Baltimore icons are technically “more like stickers” for texting apps like iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Skype, he said. They can’t be used in line with normal text messages (meaning they are sent on separate lines, and cannot be inserted mid-sentence), and they are not compatible with social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“I don’t want to promise the world to everybody and then have this huge letdown, but I think it’s still cool,” he said. “We’ve been having a lot of fun with it.”
Many of the emojis feature trademarked brands like Domino Sugar, the Ravens, the Orioles and the Baltimore Sun, and Nochumowitz said he did not secure permission to use any of the logos. He has shown the emojis to some people employed by a few brands, he said, such as Berger Cookies, and the response has been positive. (Calls on Wednesday to Berger Cookies for comment were not immediately returned.)
Still, Nochumowitz said he would remove any brand at a company’s request.
“My thinking for it was this is something that will promote local businesses and brands,” he said. “But if somebody had a problem with it, I’d have no problem removing their particular emoji from the app.”
He wants to add 10 to 20 more emojis each month via an app update, Nochumowitz said, which will keep his designer from Puerto Rico busy. (Nochumowitz, 30, said he met the designer on Reddit and only knows him as David. “I just Paypal him for the work,” he said.)
Nochumowitz also admitted the purpose of creating the app was to further extend the brand of his Baltimore in a Box business. (Yes, the logo comes as an emoji.)
“It is a marketing play for me,” he said.
Baltimore in a Box continues to grow. Nochumowitz said he just signed a one-year lease at 246 S. Conkling Street in Highlandtown for the company’s first retail storefront. Customers will be able to customize the contents of their box, and pick it up directly from the store, which will eliminate shipping costs and make the overall product cheaper, he said. He expects it to open in mid-August.