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This smiley presumably inspired many later emoticons; the most basic graphic emoticon that depicts this is in fact a small yellow smiley face.

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In web forums, instant messengers and online games, text emoticons are often automatically replaced with small corresponding images, which came to be called "emoticons" as well.

Emoticons for a smiley face appear in the first documented use in digital form.

The September 1962 issue of MAD Magazine published an article titled "Typewri-toons." The piece, featuring typewriter-generated artwork credited to "Royal Portable," was entirely made up of repurposed typography, including a capital letter P having a bigger bust than a capital I, a lowercase b and d discussing their pregnancies, an asterisk on top of a letter to indicate the letter had just come inside from a snowfall, and a classroom of lowercase n's interrupted by a lowercase h "raising its hand." In 1963 the "smiley face", a yellow button with two black dots representing eyes and an upturned thick curve representing a mouth was created by freelance artist Harvey Ball.

It was realized on order of a large insurance company as part of a campaign to bolster the morale of its employees and soon became a big hit.

The terms of the settlement were undisclosed, but Walmart continued to use its smiley design intermittently, and returned to using it in a major marketing role in 2016.

Starting circa 1972, on the PLATO system, emoticons and other decorative graphics were produced as ASCII art, particularly with overprinting: typing a character, backing up, then typing another character.In 2001, Walmart opposed the registration, citing a likelihood of confusion between the Loufrani smiley and a smiley face Walmart had been using since 1990.The USPTO eventually sided with Walmart and rejected The Smiley Company's application, due to widespread use of smiley face designs.Digital forms of emoticons on the Internet were included in a proposal by Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a message on 19 September 1982.The National Telegraphic Review and Operators Guide in April 1857 documented the use of the number 73 in Morse code to express "love and kisses" (later reduced to the more formal "best regards").For example, WOBTAX and VICTORY both produced convincing smiley faces (where the overprinted characters produced the solid background, and pixels untouched by any of the characters produced the actual design).