Happy World Smile Day! Smiley Face’s Long, Strange History

The happy face we all know and love was initially inspired by the need to calm down an office full of angry, grumpy people.


Back in 1963, commercial artist Harvey Ross Ball was asked to come up with an image that would cheer up the employees of a local insurance company. A series of difficult business mergers had destroyed their morale. The company thought that a “friendship campaign” with some perky imagery would solve the problem.


Ball came up with the now infamous yellow grinning disk in less than ten minutes, and was paid $240. His original smiley had no eyes and sported a mysterious Mona Lisa smile. But Ball was worried that the cranky employees would invert the button and wear their smiles upside down, so he added eyes – deliberately making one eye just a bit smaller than the other so the image wouldn’t look sanitized and perfect.


History doesn’t tell us whether the friendship campaign was a success but the business (now known as Worcester Insurance Company) still uses the smiley face on its marketing material.


Have A Nice Day!


In 1971, brothers Bernard and Murray Spain, owners of a couple of Hallmark card shops in Philadelphia, added the slogan “Have a Happy Day” to Ball’s smiley face and copyrighted their revision (which soon morphed into “have a nice day”). By year’s end they’d sold more than 50 million grinning yellow buttons plus a multitude of other smiling products.


Following the tradition, in 1972 French journalist Franklin Loufrani began using the image in newspaper articles to indicate that the piece contained the rare bit of cheery news. He claimed commercial use rights for the smiley, which he successfully trademarked in over 100 countries. Shortly after, Loufrani launched the Smiley Company.


Loufrani believes the J image predates Ball and actually dates back thousands of years to prehistoric art. The company website shows a stone-carved happy facedated to 2500 BC, which was found in a French cave.


In 1996, Loufrani’s son Nicolas took over the company.  and made some incredibly wise business moves, the company now makes $150 million or so a year on the still-popular beaming face. Nicolas also created some of the first stylized graphic emoticons used online back in the days when people were using AOL disks as coasters.


🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


Scott E. Fahlman is widely credited with being the inventor of the sideways “smiley face” (sometimes called an “emoticon”) that many of us use in our E-mail and text messages.


Back in the early 80s, Fahlman wanted to come up with a way to help computer programmers quiclkly and accurately identify sarcastic or humorous comments. It was a problem the Carnegie Mellon university community been aware of for a while, but after “a humorous remark was interpreted by someone as a serious safety warning” they decided to do something.


The happy face emoticon was born soon after, on September 19 1982. Fahlman notes on his website that he wanted to use 🙁  to “indicate that a message was meant to be taken seriously, though that symbol quickly evolved into a marker for displeasure, frustration, or anger.”


By the way, Fahlman thinks turning 🙂 into J and other stylized options takes all the whimsy out of his graphic invention.


Happy World Smile Day


“World Smile Day,” the first Friday in October, was invented in 1999 by Harvey Ball, who felt his smiley symbol was being over-commercialized. His idea for World Smile Day was that the world needed to devote one day each year to smiling and making other people happy.


We hope that you find many things to smile about today. And if we can help make your smile brighter, with an affordable alternative to dental insurance, please get in touch with us via DentalPlans.com or by calling our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.


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