The Birth of the Smiley

We all know the smiley – that happy face that for some inexplicable reason is frequently bright yellow – but did you know that it was designed in 1963? Yep, for over fifty years we’ve been showing our good feelings with a (often) yellow circle, two black dots for the eyes and a black arc for the mouth. On the internet, and then progressing into text messages and even into the offline world, the sideways smiley has become popular too. : )


Going back in time a bit the non-yellow smiley has popped up in posters, on t-shirts, in films and elsewhere since at least 1948. The smiley really broke through into popular culture in 1962 when WMCA, a New York radio station, ran a competition in which the prize was a yellow sweatshirt with a big yellow smiley on the front. Thousands were given away and the smiley was out there in the real world. Then, one year later, a life insurance company in Worcester, Massachusetts had smiley buttons made to boost employee morale and the town now likes to promote itself as the home of the smiley.

The featured image above is borrowed and edited from Casey Fleser under a Creative Commons Licence. The smiley is in the public domain, and is by AnonMoos.