Black illustration of a smiling face with shamrock shaped eyes on a green background
The classic yellow smiley face is comprised of a yellow circle, two black dots for eyes, and a black arc ending in serifs for a mouth. It was designed in 1963 by commercial artist, Harvey Ross Ball. Ball was commissioned by The State Mutual Life Insurance Company to create a happy face to raise the morale of their employees. His version was created in 10 minutes. The design was printed onto more than 50 million buttons. Neither Ball nor the company copyrighted this smiley, so it was continually used by other businesses in their promotions.
The design and concept is quite simple and was definitely used before Ball’s 1963 version. However, his has become the most iconic. Variations have been used for advertising campaigns and in popular culture ever since.
This variation on the traditional smile was most likely produced for people to wear on Saint Patrick's Day, a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on March 17, the day of Saint Patrick's death. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and the day commemorates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and the heritage and culture of the Irish people. According to legend, Saint Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans, which accounts for the use of the shamrock to depict the eyes of the face on this button. It is customary to wear shamrocks and the color green on Saint Patrick's Day. Celebrations around the world include parades, feasts, festivals and drinking alcohol.