It is now possible for iPhone users to punctuate their texts with the face of 74-year-old longshot presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

And for this technological breakthrough you can thank Scott Nash, a children’s book illustrator and graphic designer from Portland.

Nash, 55, has designed an app called “Berniemoji,” available at the Apple App Store for free. The app offers users 12 emoji images of Sanders in various states of facial expressiveness, from smiling or laughing to shouting or gritting his teeth.

The app became available about two weeks ago and has drawn praise from the Sanders campaign and curiosity from the national media, including The New York Times, for its apparent uniqueness.

“I searched to see if this had been done before, but I could not find any emojis for political candidates,” Nash said Friday.

Nash, a Sanders supporter, said he wanted to draw some sort of “iconic” image of Sanders, like President Obama’s “HOPE” posters. But he quickly realized that Sanders worked better as an emoji – you know, those little yellow smiley or frowney faces that sometimes accidentally end up in a sentence you’re texting.

“I saw a Muppet-like quality in Bernie, and I mean that in the best possible way,” said Nash, referring to Jim Henson’s puppet creations, including Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. “I tried to draw something (similar to ‘HOPE’), but it looked ridiculous. I Googled him and found that in pictures he’s very emotive. So I thought, what we need here are emojis.”

Nash created the images on his own. Two programmers he regularly works with – Akimitsu Hogge and Wade Brainerd – helped Nash develop the app and send it off to Apple. (His studio, Nashbox, pays a fee to Apple for app distribution.) Once the emojis were online, other supporters sent them to Sanders’ staff.

“They just have such a positive feeling to them. For me, they remind me of who (Sanders) is, in all kinds of situations,” said Luis Calderin, the arts, culture and youth vote manager for the Sanders campaign. “We’ve gotten a lot of contributions like this from creative people, and it’s great to see the enthusiasm.”

Calderin said the campaign is not using the emoji images in any official way, yet. But it does have Nash’s permission to use them in the future.

Sanders is a U.S. senator from Vermont who won office as an independent and has called himself a socialist. His campaign for the Democratic nomination for president was seen as a long shot, almost laughable, a few months ago. Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and wife of a former president, was seen as the sure bet.

But in recent weeks, polls have indicated that Sanders may be catching up to Clinton in key primary and caucus states. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed Sanders was nearly even with Clinton among Iowa Democrats, each garnering about 40 percent. Two months ago, Clinton had a 20-point lead over Sanders in Iowa.

Nash has done a wide variety of illustration and logo design work over the years. His book illustrations include editions of the “Flat Stanley” children’s series and a reissue of the Dr. Seuss book “Hooper Humperdink? Not him!” He also writes children’s books, including “The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate.”

His “Berniemoji” images, understandably, are funny and friendly, as if they were designed for kids or, at least, young voters.

“I wanted to design something that was non-threatening,” Nash said. “We’re talking about electing a guy who identifies as a democratic socialist. Hopefully we can all get beyond that.”

 

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