The story of the second most iconic smile in the world

Harvey Ross Ball, a graphic designer from Worcester, Massachusetts, is credited with inventing the iconic smiley face in 1963.

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 difficult mergers and acquisitions. Ball finished the design in less than 10 minutes and was paid $45 for his work.

The State Mutual Life Assurance Company (now Allmerica Financial Corporation) made posters, buttons, and signs adorned with the jaundiced grin in the attempt to get their employees to smile more. It’s uncertain whether or not the new logo boosted morale, but the smiling face was an immediate hit and the company produced thousands of buttons.

The image proliferated and was of course endlessly imitated but according to Bill Wallace, Executive Director of the Worcester Historical Museum, the authentic Harvey Ball-designed smiley face could always be identified by its distinguishing features: the eyes are narrow ovals, one larger than the other, and the mouth is not a perfect arc but “almost like a Mona Lisa Mouth.”

Neither Ball nor State Mutual tried to trademark or copyright the design.

Src: fopminui

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