At the current time, no, not without developing an app, and even with an app, it will still just be sending the Emoji as a picture.
I create illustrations in the Emoji style. There isn’t a way to use them in messaging, except for sending them as a picture. With an app, you’re still just building a better interface to send it as a picture only (check out the Seinfeld Emoji app or SNL app on the App Store to try for yourself). To send a real, genuine Emoji, the sender and the receiver both have to have that Emoji character on their phone — and for standard Emoji, there is a code that corresponds to each Emoji, created by the Unicode consortium. Even if you make a custom keyboard in an app, the Emoji won’t be recognized by Unicode, so the usage is limited to being sent as a picture.
There are marketing and advertising possibilities for the imagery, besides just being able to send them to people. I actually feel that as communication tools, the custom Emoji aren't particularly useful. Diehard fans may want to send Emoji of a favorite TV character once or twice, but after that the usability sort of runs out of steam. But as imagery in a visual campaign, they are extremely communicative for getting an idea across and generating a reaction in people. For me the 'joke' is that it's this recognizable subject, rendered in this iconic style, and that's what makes it amusing and captivating. Emoji offers the opportunity to tap into a new and well-known visual language to tell your story or get your message across.
Not really, but visually I try to limit the amount of ‘things’ in a particular Emoji. Ninety-percent of the time, it’s not an issue, but occasionally a client will want me to depict a scene or something that has way too much going on, which would never be found in a real Emoji. But generally, the sky’s the limit. A lot of people ask me to render their logo "as an Emoji," and it always comes out pretty lame.
We arrive at a list of ideas, and if I don't foresee any issues with them, I get to work and try to bring your vision to a reality. There is usually some tweaking to arrive at the final design, but there isn't really a 'sketch' stage in the creation process. What you see is very finalized, unless there are further changes.
I provide high-resolution PNG or JPG files for each Emoji. Outputting as JPG/PNG ensures the highest quality control, as it exports exactly how it’s supposed to look. The art is created in Illustrator, but there are layers, effects, shadows, gradients and transparencies that are really complex and finicky. At some point it stops being ‘vector art’, and essentially becomes a rasterized image. The vector art files become distorted during resizing, moving, or even opening with the wrong version of Illustrator, so I try to avoid that as much as possible.
Imagine if these were illustrated on paper, by hand, and then scanned in: the PNG/JPG would be the only version that exists. That’s sort of what this is like.