History of Smileys
The Smiley is possibly the most identifiable symbol ever. What seems to be a unsophisticated, childish illustration of the cheerful face, usually depicted as black sphere with yellow setting, two black dots for the eyes and an upturned half circle for lips, has a rather fascinating story since its beginning in the 1960s. From a corporate morale-boosting image to a sign of the 70s hippie movement to Internet terminology, the Smiley face continues to change according to the drifts of popular culture.
The Birth of the Smiley
The source of the Smiley is unclear. What is known is that some rudimentary outline of the smiley was first made on 1963 by a self-employed animator from Worcester, Massachusetts named Harvey R. Ball. He was asked by The State Mutual Life Assurance corporation to come up with some design for its “friendship campaign”. The campaign was meant to encourage employees to smile when dealing with customers and to relieve tensions in the place of work
Harvey went to blueprint what is now known as the standard Smiley: a perfect circle tinted with a yellow background.
Ball said he created the first design in a few minutes and was paid $45 for it. However, neither Ball nor State Mutual Life copyrighted the icon, making the Smiley free to use by anyone.
That same year The Smiley Image appeared at a TV show for kids called The Funny Company. The smiley was used as a kid’s club logo.
The Start of the Smiley fashion
What’s also clear is that the Smiley fashion took off in the 1970s, thanks to the labors of two brothers from Philadelphia. In 1970, Bernard and Murray Spain were looking for some peace-like sign they could use for the novelties they wanted to sell. The Spains recalled seeing smileys used in insurance campaigns, and decided to use it to create the Smiley Button. By the end of 1972, the Spains were able to sell an estimated 50 million buttons.
Another person credited for the global popularity of the smileys is a French reporter called Franklin Loufrani. In 1971, Loufrani launched the “Smiley World” with the aim of sharing his belief to the world that the best way to move on in life is to center only on the good things. Loufrani used the smiley face icon to mark news articles that contain nothing but good news. At the same time, Loufrani filed for a copyright of the Smiley World in European countries. He also created various Smiley products with licensed partners, resulting in the registration and use of the Smiley name and logo in over 110 countries for 22 different types of goods and services.
Smiley copyright and issues
Different persons had wanted to copyright the Smiley. In the 1970s, Frank Loufrani was granted the copyright for “Smiley World”.
In 1999, Harvey Ball created the World Smile Foundation and licensed the smiley face to raise funds for some charities.
In 2006, Walmart requested for a copyright of the smiley face, but came into conflict with Loufrani. Walmart was denied the copyright.
The Ever-evolving Smiley: A Timeline
The meaning of the Smiley as an icon evolved over the years:
– In the 1970s, the Smiley was associated with the hippie group.
– In the 1980s, it was linked with the house music and London underground scene.
– In the 1990s, the Smiley was given a negative association. Nirvana depicted the Smiley with crossed-out eyes in their T-shirts. In the Evil Ernie comics (Fangoria), the Smiley was depicted with angry eyes and teeth-baring mouth.
– From 1990s to the present, smileys have become part of the Internet vernacular, where they are also as emoticons. They are used in nearly every form of digital communication – from emails to forums to Chat clients.
For such as straightforward, naive drawing, it’s quite astonishing how wealthy its history is. just as amazing is how it had became the most used symbol in the world.