This is a story about a smile that conquered the world.
Check out any serious collection of flyers from the heydey of rave, and you’ll no doubt immediately find a happy, smiling yellow face looking right back at you. Sure, sometimes it might be winking, looking cheeky or even peaking, but the smile never leaves that face. The “Smiley” has become one of the most ubiquitous cultural symbols of the last 25 years, so much so that even big beat don Fat Boy Slim is an obsessive collector.
But how did this seemingly innocent face become so iconic to a generation of partiers? The secret can be found buried in a wide-ranging history published by Thump. It traces the design from its humble origins as an icon for a health insurance company in the early ’60s to its explosion across club culture in the ’90s.