Do you know who invented the Smiley Face?

face_smile1.jpgOne of the best-known cultural phenomena of the late 20th century and early 21st century is the famous “smiley face.” This simple drawing, along with countless variations, can be seen on T-shirts, buttons, advertising, lunch boxes, magazines, and more recently, in Internet messages. These are just a few examples, of the thousands that can be found in daily life.

The smiley face emerged in 1963 as a by-product of the merger of two insurance companies in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States. State Mutual Life Insurantes, State Life Insurance Mutual, bought the Ohio Guarantee Mutual Company. The union had negative effects among the employees, and the company’s management decided to implement a “friendship campaign”, which included an order to smile during working hours, when talking on the phone, serving customers, carrying out a payment and even when writing a report.

To help this campaign, the company turned to a graphic designer, Harvey Ball. Ball spent approximately ten minutes creating the smiley face, charging his regular fee of $45. The drawing, printed on buttons, was very well received, both by employees and customers. Soon orders began to be placed for these buttons, ten thousand in each order.

Several years later, Bernard and Murray Spain of Philadelphia began producing their own buttons, as well as putting the smiley face on T-shirts and stickers, earning a great deal of money. From this moment on, the emblem began to be distributed throughout the world. It is estimated that in 1972 around 50 million buttons with the smiley face had been sold.

With the advent of the Internet, drawing found a new field in which to establish itself, when a way of communicating it with characters was devised: 🙂 The subsequent variants were called emoticons. With the development of network communication, many variations of the smiley face were used to express mood to other users.


Harvey Ball, its creator, passed away in April 2001. He never patented his design, so he received no more than the $45 he was paid for it. However, he founded the World Smile Corporation, which organizes “World Smile Day” every October, where money is raised for charities.