A smiley, often known as a smiley face, is a simple ideogram that depicts a big smile. Since the 1950s, it has been ingrained in mainstream culture across the globe, whether as a solitary ideogram or as a medium of expression, such as emoticons. The smiley was originally composed of two dots and a line to depict the mouth and eyes. In the 1950s, more complex designs featuring noses, brows, and contours were popular. In the early 1960s, the New York radio station WMCA utilized a black and yellow graphic for its “Good Guys” promotion. In the 1960s and 1970s, more black and yellow patterns emerged, notably pieces by Harvey Ross Ball and Franklin Loufrani. The Company of Smiley now owns a multitude of smiley rights and is one of the world’s biggest licensing companies.
The Origins of Smiling Faces
Smiling faces have been used as ideograms and pictograms for thousands of years. In recent years, the smiling face has developed into a well-known symbol and trademark, easily identifiable by its yellow and black characteristics. Not until the early 1900s did the design develop from a simple eye and mouth to a more recognizable one, with some cool glasses emoji and frowning expressions being two of the most often used today.
A team of archaeologists headed by Nicol Marchetti of the University of Bologna discovered the world’s oldest smiling face. Marchetti and his colleagues put together pieces of a Hittite pot discovered in Karkamş, Turkey, dated about 1700 BC. Once the pot was put together, the crew realized that it was etched with a huge smiling face, making it the first object with this design to be discovered.
Johannes V. Jensen, a Danish poet, and novelist were renowned for playing with the style of his work. In a December 1900 letter to publisher Ernst Bojesen, he included both a joyful and a sad face. A balloon with a smiling face from a Gregory FUNNY-B’LOONS advertisement on page 20 of The Billboard in the 1920s. Before that, the Buffalo Steam Roller Company in Buffalo, New York, affixed stickers to receipts with the phrase “thanks” and a smiling face above it.
Yellow and Black Smiling Face
In the late 1960s, yellow and black were utilized for the first time in an American smile. Several designers developed “happy faces” throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. The WMCA happy smile became a symbol of 1960s New York culture. The cheerful smile was part of a listener contest at the New York radio station. The WMCA smiley featured a yellow face with black dots for eyes and a crooked grin. The facial contour was also not smooth, giving it a more hand-drawn appearance.
The modern smiling face was developed by American graphic designer Harvey Ross Ball, according to the Smithsonian. In the 1960s, State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts hired Ball to design a cheerful face to boost staff morale. Ball designed it in 10 minutes for $45 (about $380 in 2020). He created a brilliant yellow backdrop, dark oval eyes, a big grin, and wrinkles at the corners of the lips that became a global icon. The design is so basic that comparable variants, including those mentioned above, were manufactured before 1963. Ball’s version, as recounted below, is the most famous. In the 1960s, Seattle graphic designer George Tenagi created his version for advertising agency David Stern. The ad campaign was inspired by Lee Adams’ words from Bye Bye Birdie’s “Put on a Happy Face.” Stern, the campaign’s creator, used the Happy Face in his 1990s mayoral campaign in Seattle.
In the early 1970s, Philadelphia brothers Bernard and Murray Spain used the image to promote novelty goods. They made buttons, coffee mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and other things with the emblem and the slogan “Have a good day.”
The Smiley’s Evolution
In the 1970s, Franklin Loufrani, a Frenchman, registered the smiling face. He utilized it to promote positive news in France Soir. The Smiley Company was born. Nicolas Loufrani took over the family company in the 1990s and made it a global enterprise. Nicolas Loufrani was dubious of Harvey Ball’s claim to have invented the smiling face. Loufrani claimed that the design is so basic that no one individual can claim to have invented it. On his website, Loufrani cites 2500 BC French cave drawings as proof of the earliest representations of a smiling face. Loufrani also cites a 1960 radio ad campaign with a similar style.
The Smiley Company owns the Smiley trademark in 100 countries. This trademarked product is created or approved by SmileyWorld Ltd in London, led by Nicolas Loufrani. These include apparel, home décor, fragrance, plush, stationery, and publishing. One of the top 100 licensing businesses in the world, The Smiley Company has a $167 million revenue. The first Smiley store debuted at London’s Boxpark mall.
Language and the Exchange of Ideas
In the 1630s, a Slovak notary drew the first recorded smiley-like picture in a written document to express his pleasure with the condition of his town’s municipal financial records. On the bottom of the legal document, next to lawyer Jan Ladislaides’ signature, a gold happy smile was painted.
A disputed early usage of the smiley in a printed text is in Robert Herrick’s poem To Fortune, where the phrase “Upon my ruins (smiling yet :)” appears. According to journalist Levi Stahl, this may have been an intended “orthographic joke,” although it is more probable that the colon was put within parenthesis rather than outside them, as is customary in modern typography: “(smiling yet):”. Similar punctuation is cited in a non-humorous setting, even within Herrick’s writing. The parenthesis was almost certainly inserted later by contemporary editors. On the Web, the smiley has evolved into a visual mode of communication that incorporates pictures.
Yellow graphical smileys were utilized in early 1980s video games. Yahoo! Messenger utilized smileys as user list icons and as program icons. Several chat systems began using smiling emojis within chat text in the 2000s. Smiling has now become a global cultural icon. A variety of emotions may be conveyed using it for communication, branding, and images. Beginning in the 1960s, several companies utilized a yellow happy face to express joy.