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Tic Toc

Tic Toc Smileys Button Museum
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Tic Toc button back Smileys Button Museum
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A yellow background with an alarm clock illustrated in black. The face of the clock has a black smiley face. Black writing at the bottom.

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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.

“Tic-Toc” is a phrase to indicate that time is running out. It also refers to the sound that the hands on an analog clock makes while it moves and measures the hours, minutes, and seconds. The old-fashioned alarm clock pictured were made on winding mechanisms which ticked the minutes as the mechanism rotated across the gears.


About Harvey Ball. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2020, from

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