Harvey Ball: The Original Creator of the Globally Famous Feel-Good Symbol, the Smiley Face

Have you ever stopped and wondered who created the smiley face? Well, neither have we. It’s strange to consider the origin story of something that’s been around for so long. However, even the smiley face had a creator.

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Image: Cinema 93

Harvey Ball was a commercial artist whose design of the simple symbol happened to be a pop icon back in the early 1970s. Although there have been various copycats trying to claim the credit for it, Harvey was the original inventor of the feel-good symbol.

The Start of Something Big

Everything began with a simple American graphic designer who created it 56 years ago in Worcester, Massachusetts. Harvey Ross Ball unknowingly invented the next best thing in 1963. He was asked to create a graphic design that would encourage morale among employees after a difficult period in an insurance company.

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Image: Wikipedia

Surprisingly, unaware of his soon-to-be iconic creation, Harvey completed the feel-good symbol in under 10 minutes and was paid a small amount of $45 for the yellow scribbled smiley. Following, the insurance company went on to create smiley buttons, posters of the jaundiced smile in hopes of making their employees smile more.

It was never confirmed if his efforts in creating the logo boosted morale or not. However, from that point on, many other companies have reproduced his symbol. Regardless, you could definitely tell the difference between the authentic Harvey smile and the fake ones. The unusual thing is, neither Harvey or the insurance company tried trademarking the design. Regardless, there is much more to the story than that.

Get Your Popcorn Ready

Back in the early ’70s, two brothers named Bernard and Murray Spain owned the Hallmark card shops, located in Philadelphia. They happened to stumble across the feel-good image in a button shop. After noticing the symbol was broadly popular, they decided to appropriate it.

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Image: Imgur / ARussianAndHisBike

Well aware of who the creator was, the brothers claimed the symbol and inscribed it with “Have a good day” below the smiley face. Having personalized the emblem, the Spain brothers were able to trademark the smiley in 1971.

It didn’t take them long to begin producing their own novelty items. In just a few short months, they managed to sell over 50 million buttons and other items. Soon after, the brothers publically took credit for the symbol in 1971, appearing on a television show called What’s My Line.

In the Name of Harvey Ball

After Harvey passed on in 2001, his son Charlie Ball, tried to reclaim his father’s legacy. He hoped to reclaim the feel-good creation from unbridled commercialization once and for all, by beginning a foundation.

The foundation, the World Smile Foundation, was designed to donate funds to grassroots charities that barely receive any attention or funding.

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Image: Twitter / mzday73

Well, Charlie, we are almost positive your father would have been proud of what you did. Regardless of the money or credit, Harvey Ball certainly left an epic legacy behind. One which is bound to leave future generations smiling for years to come.