It’s hard to imagine a time before emojis helped us to get the message across as succinctly as they do today. And perhaps the most iconic of these little hieroglyphs of the modern age is the smiley face. Depending on how you think of this universal symbol of happiness you might be surprised to find out that the smiley face has only been officially around since 1963.

This was the year when graphic designer Harvey Ball of Worcester, Massachusetts was tasked to create a morale booster for the employees of the State Mutual Life Assurance Company. It took him just 10 minutes to come up with the smiley face, with Ball later telling the Associated Press, “I made a circle with a smile for a mouth on yellow paper, because it was sunshiny and bright.”

Ball was paid a whopping $45 for his efforts, but would never have been able to foresee just how enduring this icon would become.

Hallmark reps Murray and Bernard Spain copyrighted the design in the early 1970s, together with the slogan, “Have a Happy Day”, and a year after that, the Smiley Company was officially launched by the French journalist Franklin Loufrani, which would become the leading global licensing agent for the image.

Enter the emojis that first became a part of the global lexicon in the late 90s, and the smiley face really came into its own. Today, it is one of the most important among the hundreds of pictorial depictions we use to convey a range of emotions and ideas, and the smiley face doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Remaining a universal symbol of “sunshiny and bright” happiness, chances are, the smiley face will be brightening people’s day for many years to come.

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