How The Yellow Smiley Face Was Born - Hope 103.2

How The Yellow Smiley Face Was Born

Next time you tap a smiley-face Emoji into a text message, spare a grateful thought for humble, soft-spoken Harvey Ball: creator of the famous yellow icon.

By Clare BruceFriday 2 Oct 2015Inspirational StoriesReading Time: 2 minutes

Harvey Ball, original creator of the Smiley Face icon

Next time you tap a smiley-face Emoji into a text message, spare a grateful thought for humble, soft-spoken Harvey Ball: the man who created the famous yellow icon.

Harvey was a trained artist born in American in 1921, who worked as a sign writer, soldier and advertising executive, according to

In 1963, he was hired by an insurance company to make a logo for their “friendship campaign”, aimed at improving staff morale.

His brief?

To design a happy face that would remind employees to smile while using the phone, selling insurance, and working around the office.

The logo, which Harvey created in 10 minutes flat, was used on badges, cards and posters in the workplace.

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From A Simple Smiley Face To A Global Corporation

Smiley Face Badge

Original: The Smiley Face badge, designed by Harvey Ball. Picture:

According to “Now You Know More: The Book Of Answers Volume 2”, Harvey’s design was similar to another promotional yellow-and-black smiley face created the previous year, by the New York radio station WMCA.

The WMCA version had a crooked smile, (like the Smirking Face Emoji), but Harvey’s was beaming with happiness.

Harvey’s design was a hit.

Throughout the 1960s, similar yellow smiley faces were used for other advertising campaigns and in 1970, a pair of entrepreneurs slapped the logo on mugs, t-shirts and bumper stickers, with slogans like “Have a nice day”.

By 1971 they’d sold more than 50 million badges.

A French newspaper editor Franklin Loufrani then trademarked the logo in 1972, according to Smithsonian Magazine, for his newspaper France Soir.

He called the design “Smiley” and launched the Smiley Company, which turned multinational in the ‘90s.

The Birth Of World Smile Day

People form a giant smiley logo

Spreading the love: A World Smile Day Event. Picture:

Ironically the original designer was paid only $45 for his work and never applied for copyright; he was said to be a very humble man.

In 1999, Harvey Ball launched World Smile Day, in a bid to revive the meaning and intent of his symbol, which he felt had been lost in rampant commercialization

World Smile Day is held on the first Friday in October each year, with the aim of inspiring people to overcome politics, geography and religion, and to be kind to one another.

Its slogan: “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.”

What Jackie Chan, Yoko Ono, Phil Collins & Winnie Mandela All Have In Common

World Smile Day posters

Happy art: World Smile Day posters from recent years. Photo:

After Harvey died in 2001, his son Charles established the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, which donates money to grass-roots charities.

World Smile Day ambassadors have included politicians, actors and celebrities including Jackie Chan, Phil Collins, Yoko Ono, Dr. Patch Adams, Winnie Mandela, Jerry Lewis and Jack Nicklaus.

The Final Word

Happy World Smile Day from Hope 103.2

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