Origin of Smiley, Dollar, Peace, Male, Female And Other Popular Symbols


1. The Smiley Face


This cute yellow symbol is worldwide popular icon for happiness. It all started with an unusual assignment to a graphic designer called Harvey Bell.

In 1963, an insurance company in Massachusetts noticed that its employees were struggling to maintain a cheerful work environment after some tough transitions. 

So, they hired Harvey to design a symbol that would boost their employees’ morale. Harvey designed this genius smiley face within 10 minutes. Fun fact: he only charged $45 for this masterpiece.

The company started printing the smiley on buttons and posters. Soon, the symbol started spreading further. Unfortunately, neither the company nor Harvey Ball got a copyright on the design. Imagine how many billions they would've made by now, had they got trade rights.


2. The Dollar Symbol


Dollar sign is the most recognized symbol for money. Although no one knows about its origin for sure, over the years several theories have evolved to explain it.

The most widely accepted theory is based on Spanish peso of late 1700s. Handwritten manuscripts from that period show that the peso—formally “peso de ocho reales” or “piece of eight” in America—was abbreviated PS. 

With passing years, the S was frequently overwritten on P which started looking like the present-day symbol $.

Another popular theory suggests that the dollar symbol was used not just for currency, but also for indicating the country’s economic freedom.

The famous libertarian philosopher, Any Rand, in her 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” claimed that the $ symbol came from the initials of the United States i.e., a capital U superimposed on a capital S, minus the lower part of U.

However, this theory has limitations because some ancient manuscripts suggest that the dollar sign was in use even before the formation of the US.


3. The Peace Symbol


This simple sign with one circle and three lines has represented several cross-national movements across generations.

The peace sign was made by Gerald Holtom, a textile designer from London in 1958. He was asked to make a symbol for the Nuclear Disarmament march. He wanted to make a symbol that would stick with the people. The design was inspired from naval semaphore flags that sailors use to communicate.

Holtom combined the codes for "N" (two flags angled down at a forty five degrees) for "nuclear" and "D" (one flag pointed straight up and one flag pointed straight down) for "disarmament." Holtom also wanted the figure show to show arms in despair dropped toward the ground.

Source: medium.com


The symbol made its first public debut in Easter weekend of 1958.


4. The Symbols for Male and Female


The origin of these symbols' dates back to Middle Ages and is also said to be influenced by Roman mythology.

Astronomers of the Middle Ages used symbols to designate each planet they observed. They associated femininity with Venus and masculinity with Mars.

In Roman Mythology also, Venus was seen as the goddess of love and Mars as the god of war. However, the exact reason for the symbols to look the way they do, is unclear.

One common theory suggests the representation could be based on Gentelia. Another theory is that the female symbol was made to look like a mirror. The symbol is sometimes referred to as the “mirror of Venus.” Well, that’s quite stereotypical. 


5. The @ Symbol


@ is the absolute requisite of our electronic communication. From e-mail addresses to social media handles like Twitter and Instagram, we see it everywhere. @ has even been added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

The origin of this symbol is also a mystery. One theory says that medieval monks, trying to find shortcuts while copying manuscripts, converted the Latin word for “toward”—ad—to “a” with the rear part of the “d” as a tail. 

Another is that it came from the French word for “at” (à) and scribes, striving for efficiency, swept the nib of the pen around the top and side. The symbol could have also evolved from an abbreviation of “each at”—the “a” being encased by an “e.” 

The first documented use of the symbol was in 1536, in a letter by Francesco Lapi, a Florentine merchant, who used it to denote units of wine, which were shipped in large jars. 

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson, a computer programmer has used @ to connect a phone and teletype machine. Therefore, he was the first person to use @ for its present usage.


6. The Power Button

Source: designblog.nzeldes.com

The symbol has evolved from on and off words. Originally switches had a lever or slider that could move to either of two physical positions- one position for on and other for off.

With the advent of microprocessors, a universal configuration of 0 and 1 was established to denote off and on, respectively.

Source: Medium.com


Written by - Saija Bhumireddy

Edited by - Sandhya R

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