The original version of the familiar smiley face was first created 1963 in Worcester, Massachusetts by the late Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man.
Ball came up with the image in 1963 when he was commissioned to create a graphic to raise morale among the employees of an insurance company after a series of tough transitions. Ball finished the design in less than 10 minutes and was paid $45 for his work.
At first, the company simply printed the face on buttons and posters to give to its employees. But the image quickly gained popularity, and yellow smiley faces started popping up on everything from greeting cards to T-shirts to stickers. Neither Ball nor the insurance company trademarked the soon-to-be iconic happiness symbol.
The Smiley has been surrounded by copyright controversies ever since the early 1970s when a Frenchman, Franklin Loufrani registered the trademark as Smiley World in some European countries. Wal-Mart tried to copyright the Smiley in 2006, but lost the case to Smiley World.
In the meantime tens of thousands of variations came to life and it has appeared on everything from pillows and posters to perfume and pop art.
In 1982, Scott E. Fahlman proposed the use of :-) and :-( in posts and email messages. These are generally regarded as the first internet emoticons, and the text-only ancestors of today’s graphical emojis.
In the groundbreaking comic Watchmen (1986), a blood-stained smiley face motif serves as something of a critique of American politics in a dystopian world featuring depressed and traumatized superheroes.
Watchman artist Dave Gibbons explains the mystique of the smiley: “It’s just a yellow field with three marks on it. It couldn’t be more simple. And so to that degree, it’s empty. It’s ready for meaning. If you put it in a nursery setting… It fits in well. If you take it and put it on a riot policeman’s gas mask, then it becomes something completely different.”
Through the years its meaning has changed with social and cultural values: from the optimistic message of a 1960s insurance company, to commercialized logo, to an ironic fashion statement, to a symbol of rave culture imprinted on ecstasy pills, to a wordless expression of emotions in text messages.
Baggu's Yellow Happy Bag
Baggu’s reusable shopper bag with smiley print is made from 100% ripstop nylon (40% is recycled nylon sourced from pre-consumer waste). Designed in such a way that you can carry it in your hand or over your shoulder, it goes everywhere and hauls practically anything.