We've seen them for years and many of us use them in our texts to friends and family on a daily basis. Do you know how the smiley face got its start? Did you realize that West Michigan is the home to a couple of pretty big smiley faces?

It All Began at a Radio Station!

One of the earliest uses of a smiley face was in New York at  WMCA radio. In the early 60s they started a campaign to promote their on-air personalities -- the "Good Guys" --  and used a yellow and black smiley face.

Since that time the "smiley" has shown up in many different places. In the early days of texting, people would often simulate a smiley in their text with the characters :). Now, we have emoticons or emojis that feature smiley faces with several different expressions.

Emojis
Photos: Canva
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The Authentic Worcester Made Smiley Face

Over the years, many people came up with versions of the smiley face that featured the yellow and black color scheme. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a graphic designer named Harvey Ross Ball created a happy face to raise the morale of the employees at the State Mutual Life Assurance Company back in 1963. It took him 10 minutes to create the design. He was paid $45 for his creation which featured a bright yellow background, dark oval eyes, and a full smile. His version of the smiley face was imprinted on more than fifty million buttons and became familiar around the world.

It was another man who ended up fine tuning the smiley face and actually copyrighting the image. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a store owner named Bernard Spain had been printing all sorts of items with a smiley face. He later discovered that Ball's design had never been copyrighted. He fine tuned the smiley face and applied for a copyright of his own. His rendition of the smiley face has become the most iconic version.

Here is a story by the Smithsonian Channel on the history of the smiley face...

A Huge Smiley Face You Can See From the Air in West Michigan

M-57 Smiley Face
Photo: Google Maps
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If you take a ride in northern Kent County, you can see a huge smiley face made of plants. It is located on the corner of 14 Mile Road (M-57) and Northland Drive. It sits on the southeast corner of that intersection. Although most of the year it is green and brown in color, during a few weeks in the summer, some of the plants bloom with yellow flowers. The smiley is so big it can be seen from the air...

M-57 Smiley Face
Photo: Google Maps
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A Huge Smiley Face Painted on a Water Tower

A trip to Fruitport, MI will put a smile on your face when you drive by a water tower next to United Building Centers. The bright yellow water tower features a smiley face painted on the north side of the structure. This smiley face is even lit up at night....

Fruitport Smiley
Photo: Google Maps
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So if you are feeling a little bit of a frown developing on your face, maybe it's time for a road trip to northern Kent County or out along the lakeshore -- so that a huge smiley face can turn your frown upside down!

 

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