Have You Ever Wondered Where The Smiley Face Emoji Came From?

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You might not even know what an Emoji is!  These images are faces we use in our text message to display emotions such as blushing, smiling, or scowling.

Whether you want to end your message on a high note, add a smile in the middle of your text, or wishing someone a happy birthday, there's an emoji for you.  We use them in messages on social media, in our emails to one another, or in other ways to convey an emotion or sentiment.

What you might not know, where did the original smiley come from?  This concept actually started back in the 60s when Harvey Ball created the very first smiley face drawing.  Over the years, the image began to change and develop into smiley emoji drawings that we all love and enjoy to use.

How It All Began:

Graphic artists, Harvey Ross Ball created the first smiley face without giving it much thought, let along turning it into an international icon!  Possibly, he was just doodling while coming up with ideas in his head for his next project.

He was originally hired by State Mutual Life Insurance Company as a graphic artist to produce an image that would encourage their employees to smile more often during their time at the workplace.

It took him less than 10 minutes to draw this cute smiley face and was only paid $45 for his artwork.  While the image probably did nothing to ramp up morale in the workplace, this smiley face caught on like wildfire!

It was printed on buttons, posters, shirts, etc.  Even though Ball never copyrighted the design, saying he was not a man of means or money, his smiley face continued to gain in popularity in our culture.  Before he knew it, even the company workers stood up and took notice of his simple cute drawing.

How The Smiley Face Evolved:

Through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the little yellow smiley face started to evolve and soon became an image of happiness and peace within pop art and started appearing on tee-shirts and posters.

As mentioned earlier, Ball never claimed the copyright but someone else stepped up to the plate to promote and commercialize this little yellow face.  Franklin Loufrani, a French journalist, was a driven man and he decided to attached this smiley drawing to all his positive newspaper stories and received a lot of attraction from readers.

At one point, he copyrighted the image and made a lot of money selling just about anything he could with the image printed on it.  He named the image simply “Smiley” and started the Smiley Company selling tee-shirt transfers to anyone who wanted to show off this positive image.

Even though the image was created long before the cell phone, this French journalist's company played an enormous role in the production of the 21st-Century Emoji!

The Birth Of The Emoji:

If you've ever wondered how this little smiley face ended up on the internet, we've got you covered!  Scott E. Fahlman was a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon. He is the man who got the idea that would eventually lead to becoming known as an Emoji.

He decided it would be a great idea to have some visual way to express emotions that are funny to text messages, especially at the closing of a message with either a happy or sad face.

Then, Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese interface designer started sending out cartoons in his company messages that were emoji-like faces.  So in some ways, he is the one who created the emoji!  He used a 12 x 12 grid to produce the pixel images such as laughing faces, hearts, and of course, the original smiley face.

This new concept remained only in Japan for almost 10 years.  Meanwhile, Loufrani's son Nicolas was working on the smiley replication of emojis.  He created an amazing 470 emojis during 1999 and licensed them out to phone companies for a price.  Finally, in 2010, emojis hit the public internationally with 722 emojis being released on iPhone and Android devices.

Now in the age of cell phones, there are approximately 3,000 emojis available for our devices. It's almost impossible for any of us to imagine not having these emojis for our messages.  Though I must look back and say it's a shame that Ball only received a total of $45 for a design that was formed in his head alone.