The smiley, smiley face, or happy face, is a stylized representation of a smiling human face, commonly represented as a yellow circle with two dots representing eyes and a half circle representing the mouth. “Smiley” is also sometimes used as a generic term for any emoticon.
The very earliest known examples of the graphic are attributed to Harvey Ball, a commercial artist in Worcester, Massachusetts. He devised the face in 1963 for an insurance firm that wanted an internal campaign to improve employee morale. Ball never attempted to use, promote or trademark the image; it fell into the public domain in the United States before that could be accomplished. As a result, Ball never made any profit for the iconic image beyond his initial $45 fee.
David Stern of David Stern Inc., a Seattle-based advertising agency also claimed to have created 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 Bernard and Murray Spain, who seized upon it in a campaign to sell novelty items. The two produced buttons as well as coffee
, bumper stickers
and many other items emblazoned with the symbol and the phrase "Have a happy day" (devised by Gyula Bogar). It can show many different emotions.
The smiley is largely associated in the UK with the acid house dance music culture that emerged during the second summer of love in the late 1980s, often used as engraved logos on ecstasy tablets at the time. The association was cemented when the band Bomb The Bass used an extracted, blood-splattered smiley from the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore, on the centre of their Beat Dis hit single.
Licensing and legal issues
Smiley has been a registered trademark in some countries since 1971 when English businessman Franklin Loufrani created "Smiley World" to sell and license the smiley face image in the United Kingdom and Europe. The Smiley name and logo is registered and used in over 100 countries for 25 classes of goods and services.
In 1999, Ball formed World Smile Corporation and began licensing the smiley face to fund his charitable causes. Profits are distributed to charities through the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, which also sponsors the annual World Smile Day Ball started in 1999 to encourage "acts of kindness".
In 2006 Wal-Mart, which prominently featured a smiley in its "Rolling Back Prices" campaign, sought to trademark the smiley face in the United States, coming into legal conflict with Loufrani and SmileyWorld over the matter. In 2006 Wal-mart began to phase out the smiley face on its vests and its website. During a trademark infringement case against an online parodist, Wal-Mart again tried to claim it held the trademark rights to the yellow smiley face. The judge disagreed and in March 2008 Wal-Mart lost the case with the judge saying that Wal-Mart had no rights to the smiley face.
The smiley has become an essential part 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. In modern times, all versions of Microsoft Windows
since Windows 95
were able to display the smiley since it is part of the Windows Glyph List
(though not all fonts include the character and not all programs were Unicode-compliant).
|The following Unicode character points are smileys:
|| White Frowning Face |
|| White Smiling Face |
|| Black Smiling Face |
The Wingdings font also includes a smiley:
Smileys and emoticons are often used on Internet forums.
Many typographical representations of smiley faces have been developed over the years. Some feature non-smiling expressions or other elaborations. They come in two main varieties, those meant to be viewed sideways, and those meant to be seen upright.
||classic smile with nose |
||classic sad with nose |
||classic smile without nose |
||classic sad without nose |
The two original text smileys, :-) to indicate a joke and :-(to mark things that are not a joke were invented on September 19
, 1982 by Scott E. Fahlman
, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University
's Department of Computer Science. His original post at the CMU CS general board, where he suggested the use of the smileys, was retrieved on September 10
, 2002 by Jeff Baird from an October 1982 backup tape of the spice vax (cmu-750x) as proof to support the claim.
More recently, small, in-line graphical images of smileys and other faces have become popular, especially on forums:
The reverse, or left-handed, smileys (-: have also gained popularity for being a way to avoid having text smileys converted to graphical representations in certain settings such as instant messaging programs
Unusual appearances of smileys
A possible gang of serial killers is dubbed the "Smiley Face Gang" due to a trademark smiley face found near murder scenes along the Mississippi River boardering Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Smileys in popular culture
Art and literature
- The smiley face is the logo of the Dryco Corporation in Jack Womack's "Ambient" books: Elvissey, Ambient, Heathern, Terraplane, and Random Acts of Senseless Violence.
- The yellow smiley is a recurring theme in the comic book series Watchmen (Alan Moore & David Gibbons, 1986). The smiley is used as an insignia by the character named "The Comedian." An image of a smiley face with a streak of red (originally blood) across it both begins and closes the series, and appears on the cover of the graphic novel reprint.
- In the comic book series Transmetropolitan the smiley with three eyes logo features as the symbol of the Transient Movement, a group of humans in the process of morphing their DNA with that of aliens, and was later used as a symbol of the series itself. The 2001 movie Evolution used a similar smiley in promotions a number of years later under license from Smileyworld Ltd.
- In the comic book series The Tick, the Chainsaw Vigilante wears a yellow smiley face button on the lapel of his leather jacket, oriented upside-down in an apparent expression of irony. His mask is also a significantly stylized version of the smiley and the classical comedy/tragedy masks.
- The Chaos! Comics character Evil Ernie has a sidekick called Smiley the Psychotic Button, a sentient smiley button with a sinister face and backed by crossbones.
- In the 2003 comic Solus a fragment of Danik is named Polla and looks like a talking smiley.
- The popular graffiti artist Banksy has used smileys in several of his works, including one that shows a man in full riot-police gear with a smiley for a head.
- The Banksy riot-police version of the smiley was used in the graphic novel The Smoke.
- Stephen King's recurring villain Randall Flagg often wears a smiley badge. A smiley sticker also appears on a bag of marijuana in King's novel 'Desperation'.
- Gahan Wilson has drawn several cartoons with smiley faces: among them, one shows a group of cops wearing smiley-face masks in an interrogation to break down the resistance of the person being interrogated.
- The DC comic four-issue mini-series Prez featured a shady political boss named Mr. Smiley. This short series was referenced in Issue #54 of Neil Gaiman's seminal comic book series The Sandman. In the Sandman story, "Boss Smiley" controlled all of Prez Rickard's reality. This version also references and homages the previously mentioned depiction of the smiley in Alan Moore's comic series, Watchmen.
- In the webcomic Misfile, Rumisiel wears a T-shirt with a non-smiling smiley and the caption "Have a day"
- A frowning, menacing looking version of a smiley face, dubbed "Mr. Personality", is the logo for the webcomic Something Positive.
- A picture of a smiley face with a Hitler-style mustache is on the cover of Jonah Goldberg's 2008 book Liberal Fascism. The Neo-Nazi musical group, Prussian Blue are seen in a photograph wearing t-shirts with a similar image.
- Mr. Happy from the Mr. Men book series resembles as smiley face.
Movies and Television
- The film Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994) comically featured the smiley being "invented" when the main character wipes his mud-covered face off with a yellow t-shirt, and says "Have a nice day", inspiring a struggling businessman with the makeshift design. This scene is not in the original book.
- The film Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) has a brief "smiley bombing" scene on the side of an office building. A similar face previously appeared in the Fight Club novel.
- In Timescape, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard drew a smiley face in the cloud created by a warp core breach in progress that was frozen in time and laughed hysterically for a moment before becoming extremely panicked, all as a result of "temporal narcosis".
- In the 1995 film Virtuosity a smiley is used to mark a restaurant where the virtual serial killer "Sid 6.7" was hiding.
- In the 2001 film Evolution a three eyed smiley is used as a symbol for aliens.
- A smiley can be vaguely seen on the bloodstained medical gurney in the crash scene of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
- In Lost, one character landed on the island in a balloon with a smiley face on it.
- WWE wrestler Mick Foley's most common logo is a smiley with his trademark Mankind mask over it. Also in his Mankind persona his catchphrase was "Have a nice day!", used ironically as a sinister heel and more literally as a comic face.
- In the 2007 film Smiley Face.
- In Blazing Saddles, when Hedley Lamar is enlisting his criminal army, the KKK members wear smiley faces and have a nice day on the back of their sheets.
- In The Howling, a 1981 tongue in cheek horror film, smiley face stickers were left by the werewolf, creating a sinister reaction to the banal greeting.
- In the Anime television series Ghost in the Shell a stylised smiley face (surrounded by a Sallinger quote) is used by a villain called the "Laughing Man" to hide his identity.
- The 2009 film Watchmen uses the smiley face under licence from SmileyWorld Ltd
- Clouds with smileys are a common element in the universe of the Super Mario Bros. game. Most prominently, the enemy Lakitu is usually seen riding a smiling cloud.
- A bespectacled smiley was used as part of the logo of the Microsoft Bob software
- The first-person shooter game MIDI Maze, 1987 and its follow up Faceball 2000 (for various handhelds and consoles) exclusively used 3D-rendered smileys of various shapes, expressions, and colors as its players and enemies.
- In the video game Toonstruck, King Hugh has a smiley for head; ball-shaped and yellow with the classic eyes and mouth of a smiley. Also, smileys appear several places in the country of Cutopia, where most of the beginning takes place.
- UNET2 Corporation implemented text to graphic smileys in their KeepTalking chat system in 1995.
- In the arcade game Berzerk (1980) and its sequel, Frenzy (1982), the menacing "Evil Otto" was a bouncing yellow smiley face.
- Battlefield: Bad Company humorously uses a smiley tag attached to the ring of the safety pin on hand grenades, featured on the game's cover and in the game itself.