The Resiliency of the Smiley Face

Originally designed by Harvey Ball in 1963, the Smiley Face has become an immediately recognizable symbol the world over. In the early ’70s two Hallmark reps copyrighted the design and later a French journalist claimed it through the Smiley Company—that same company made $420 million in 2017 by licensing the logo, claiming it’s more than an icon, it’s “a spirit and a philosophy.” In recent years, the face has appeared in dozens of fashion releases and artworks (from KATSU to Banksy and Nate Lowman). The first-ever Emoticons were also very similar to Ball’s creation. It’s synonymous with rave culture of the ’80s and ’90s, while bands like Talking Heads and Nirvana reimagined it for logos. Kate Silzer writes, “Given its uncurtailed proliferation, will the smiley ever lose its value as a signifier? If it can mean everything, then, surely, it will mean nothing.” Read more about the enduring Smiley Face at Artsy.