October 7, 2011 - World Smile Day



A commercial artist named Harvey Ball created an image that has been used, over-used, and over-used a billion times more: the smiley face.

Ball created the smiley face for an advertising company in 1963. It was made up into buttons then – and since then it has been featured on everything from gift wrap and T-shirts to stickers and coffee mugs.

Of course simple smiling faces had been drawn before Ball's version – but his use of a solid yellow circle, dark oval eyes, and creases at the side of the mouth became iconic. (That means that it has become an important, commonly-used, long-lasting symbol.)

In the early 1970s, a man named Franklin Loufrani introduced the smiley to Europeans and registered it as a trademark in France. Also, a pair of brothers in Philadelphia started using Ball's smiley face on novelty items, linking it with the phrases “Have a happy day” and “Have a nice day.” The image and message were so overused that they became empty of meaning. Wikipedia says that the smiley face, combined with the greeting “Have a nice day,” became a “zombifying hollow sentiment”!  Cynics began to parody the face and the greeting.

Smiley creator Harvey Ball is seen here, seated.
He used his smiley face to raise money for charity.
Harvey Ball wasn't totally happy about this mis-use of his image (to say the least), so although he was pretty much too late to license his artwork, he created the World Smile Corporation in 1999. He licensed his version of the smiley face (although it had already been copied and spread worldwide) to be used, not to make money for himself, but to raise funds for charity.

Of course, there have been many
variations on the original smiley.
This version is an alien smiley!
Ball pointed out that the smiley face transcends borders, politics, geography, and religion—and he thought that we should try to do so, too.

Since his death in 2001, the corporation was changed into a foundation, which runs a World Smile Day Ball and encourages “acts of kindness.”


Is there a Smile-Day celebration near you?

Check out the official website

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