Harvey Ball.

The Smiley

The smiley face entered pop culture in 1963 by way of a man named Harvey Ross Ball. He was employed by State Mutual Life Assurance Company, now known as Hanover Insurance, to create an image to boost employee morale. He devised the yellow smiley face in 10 minutes, and was paid $45, an equivalent to today’s $330. Neither he, nor the company, filed for trademark.  State Mutual handed out 100 smiley pins to employees, urging them to smile while answering the phone.

Somehow, possibly through the original 100 employees, the buttons’ popularity soared, and orders of 10,000 were being shipped.

Two Philadelphian brothers, Bernard and Murray Spain, found the icon and decided to add the phrase “have a happy day” under the already popular face. They  changed it to “have a nice day” before tradmarking that particular combination, and that phrase  has become the standard ending sentence after a simple monetary transaction. Their combination graces plastic shopping bags all over North America.

In late 1971, Frenchman Frank Loufrani was asked to find an image to represent happy news in the newspaper France Soir. He chose the smiley and swiftly had it trademarked. By 1972 the smiley was printed with the phrase “take time to smile” in the French newspaper. It was the first reproduction of the originaly smiley under trademark.  The icon took off, and The Smiley Brand is now registered in over 100 countries. The company turns over $210 million in retail per year.

Perhaps the smiley gained its rapid popularity because it is the simplest reflection of us.

It can also be seen as the first  emoticon, and now the Emoji. Scott Fahlman, the inventor of the first emoticon “:-)”, used the smiley as an attempt to inject digital communication with humor and sarcasm. A professor at Carnegie Mellon, he started using it on the community bulletin boards to highlight posts that were meant to be funny. It eased online arguements, and was an elegant solution to  the lack of humanity in the digital sphere.