Where are the biggest smiley faces in West Michigan?


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

It all started at a radio station!

One of the first uses of a smiley face was in New York on WMCA radio. In the early 1960s they launched 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 appeared in many different places. In the early days of texting, people often faked a smiley face in their text with the characters :). Now we have emoticons or emojis that feature smiley faces with several different expressions.

The authentic smiling face of Worcester

Over the years, many people have come up with versions of the smiley face featuring the colors yellow and black. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a graphic designer named Harvey Ross Ball created a happy face to cheer up employees of the State Mutual Life Assurance Company 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 has been printed on over fifty million buttons and has become familiar the world over.

It was another man who ended up tweaking the smiley face and actually copyrighting the image. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a store owner named Bernard Spain printed all kinds of items with a smiley face. He later discovered that Ball’s design had never been copyrighted. He tweaked the smiley face and claimed his own copyright. His rendition of the smiley face has become the most iconic version.

Here’s a story by the Smithsonian Channel about the history of the smiley face…

A huge smiley face you can see from the air in western Michigan

M-57 Smiley

Photo: Google Maps

If you take a drive around North Kent County, you can see a huge smiling face made out of plants. It is located at the corner of 14 Mile Road (M-57) and Northland Drive. It is at the southeast corner of this intersection. Although most of the year it is green and brown in color, for a few weeks in the summer some plants bloom with yellow flowers. The smiley is so big you can see it from the air…

M-57 Smiley

Photo: Google Maps

A huge smiley face painted on a water tower

A trip to Fruitport, MI will put a smile on your face as you pass a water tower next to United Building Centers. The bright yellow water tower features a smiling face painted on the north side of the structure. This smiley is even illuminated at night…

Fruitport Smiley

Photo: Google Maps

So if you feel a little frown growing on your face, maybe it’s time for a road trip in northern Kent County or along the lake – so that a huge smiley face can reverse your frown!

25 Michigan Roadside Sights


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