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Christian Bernard-Cedervall

How Did the Smiley Face Become an Icon of Rave Culture?


The yellow smiley face has been the face of acid-house for nearly three decades. But how did it become such a staple? Read the article from Christian Bernard-Cedervall to get a history lesson!

This article originally appeared on Trax Mag

House music might be faceless, it was still incarnated by the mythical yellow smiling face. Not to be confused with the much more modern emoticon which rose with internet and instant chats, the smiley face arrived in the late 80s and was to be forever associated with acid culture and everything it implies...

Before turning into the hedonistic symbol of a rebelled youth, the smiley face appears in its current form at the end of the 60s, in commercial or children TV programs. Originally the American graphic designer Harvey Ball drew it for an insurance company but failed to copyright it. The image was then free to use in the US, and slowly became the candid expression of the will for redemption in the post-Vietnam and Watergate America.

In the early 70s, markets are flooded with derived products: cups, t-shirts, stickers, jewellery... The small guy's face is sold by the millions, so much that it alienates itself from the hippy counter-culture to which it seemed meant for.

At the same time, in France, Franklin Loufrani registers the smiley in the French intellectual property institution and to this day he still makes money on it through his company Smiley World Ltd. In the US a few negative incarnations start to appear.


Read the full story at Trax to learn how the smiley face went from political symbolism to a token for the acid house movement.

Tags : Acid House Trax Mag