The Origin of the Smiley Face
In 1963 the “smiley face”, a yellow button with two black dots representing eyes and an upturned thick curve representing a mouth, was created by freelance artist Harvey Ball. It was realized on order of a large insurance company as part of a campaign to bolster the moral of its employees and soon became a big hit.
The smiley face craze, was the work of two brothers in Philadelphia, Bernard and Murray Spain, who were in the business of making would-be fad items. In September of 1970 they drew up a smiley face added the words “Have a nice day,” and copyrighted the image and words. Soon they and their many imitators were cranking out buttons, poster, greeting cards, shirts, bumper stickers, cookie jars, earrings, bracelets, key chains, and many other items. The fad lasted about a year and half; the number of smiley buttons produced by 1972 was estimated at 50 million.
In 1979 Bob Last and Bruce Slesinger used the smiley behind a collage of American Governor Jerry Brown in a Nuremburg style rally on the cover of the Dead Kennedy’s Uber Alies.
The Smiley Face featured strongly in the counter culture book released in 1986 “Watchman”. It is a visual metaphor for narrative that examines failure, guilt, compromise and megalomania which all lead ultimately to unhappy demise.
It was in early 1988 that the smiley face exploded once again into popular culture and remained there. Bomb The Bass released the first reference to Watchmen, with a blood stained smiley face logo on the cover of the record Beat Dis. Tim Simenon also used the Smiley repeatedly in his video for his hit Don’t Make Me Wait (Summer 1988).
Its first use as an advertisement for a dance music club was DJ Danny Rampling putting it on the flyer for his club Shoom (the fore runner for all rave clubs and events). He had apparently got the idea from designer Barnzely at the Wag Club wearing a shirt covered “in a lot of smiley faces”.
Within no time the smiley face had...