How the Smiley made happiness cool

The humble smiley face has been used to spread joy everywhere from acid house raves in the 90s to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. We speak to the son of its original creator, Nicolas Loufrani, about the enduring appeal of the symbol

The origin of the smiley face is something that is, and will likely remain, shrouded in mystery. Graphic designer Harvey Ball claimed to be the first person to create the design for US insurance company State Mutual in 1963, while poet Johannes V Jensen apparently used both happy and frowny faces in letters to his publisher in 1900, and in 2017 ‘the world’s oldest’ smiley face was discovered in Turkey on a 4,000-year-old jug.

The first ‘official’ version of the cheery yellow and black symbol we’ve all come to know and love, however, was created by French journalist Franklin Loufrani, who trademarked the design in the early 70s and used it to highlight feel-good stories in French newspaper France Soir as part of its Take Time to Smile campaign.