Professor Scott Fahlman of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh sent an email on September 19 1982 that included the first use of the sideways smiley face. Intended for use by the Professor as a means of differentiating between serious and humourous emails, the notion swiftly went ‘viral’ and spread across the globe to become one of the most widely used communication tools, undergoing many subtle (and not so subtle!) transformations along the way to suggest practically every form of human emotion in simple (and sometimes not so simple!!) graphic form.
We have a wide range of books examining the use and design of icons and symbols such as the emoticon among our art, design and typography books in the Library, as well as texts examining the language and sociology of semiotics and symbols. Certainly plenty to about!
Emoticon by Dominic Alves, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.