Symbols on Stuff: T-Shirts Stickers Hats and Gifts > Smileys & Emoticons > Smiley Face
The smiley face, a yellow button with a smile and two dots representing eyes, was invented by Harvey Ball in 1963 for a Worcester, Massachusetts based insurance firm State Mutual Life Assurance. Though there was an attempt to trademark the image, it fell into the public domain before that could be accomplished.
However, Franklin Loufrani of London based company SmileyWorld says he came up with the image in 1968 and is trademarked across 80 countries. As with David Stern of David Stern Inc., a Seattle-based advertising agency also claims to have invented the smiley. Stern reportedly developed his version in 1967 as part of an ad campaign for Washington Mutual, but says he did not think to trademark it.
The graphic was popularized in the early 1970s by a pair of brothers, Murray and Bernard Spain, who seized upon it in a campaign to sell novelty items. The two produced buttons as well as coffee mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers and many other items emblazoned with the symbol and the phrase "Have a happy day" (devised by Murray). By 1972 there were an estimated 50 million smiley face buttons throughout the U.S., at which point the fad began to subside.
The smiley was one of the main icons adopted by the acid house dance music culture that emerged in the late 1980s. Especially in the UK, the logo was especially associated in the dance culture underground with the drug Ecstasy.
There have been variations such as reversing the mouth shape to get a sad face. The symbol has been satirized with a smile and three dots (a mutant), and has been reborn as the image of the Microsoft Bob software and Asda & Wal-Mart's "Rolling Back Prices" campaign. In 2006 Wal-Mart sought to trademark the smiley face in the US, coming into legal conflict with SmileyWorld over the matter.
The smiley has become a staple of Internet culture, with animated GIF and other image representations, as well as the ubiquitous text-based emoticon, " :) ". The smiley has been used for the printable version of characters 1 and 2 (one "black," the other "white") on the default font on the IBM PC and successor compatible machines, though modern fonts for graphical user interfaces often don't include those characters.