Smiley – The World’s Most Recognisable Smile

The World’s Most Recognisable Smile

There are some brands in the world that are so part of our visual vernacular, that we forget they’re brands at all. Smiley is one of them. More than an icon, the familiar yellow smiley face is a movement, a mood, and the front of the biggest licensing brand in the world. 

But with great recognition comes great responsibility. As the climate emergency becomes more pressing, and people — rightfully — demand more from corporations, Smiley pledged to hold partner brands to a higher standard. Enter Future Positive: Smiley’s long-term sustainability commitment aligned to the United Nations’ Global Goals.

Facing Up To The Future

Making change is essential for a better tomorrow, and for Smiley it’s about striking a balance between responsibility and encouraging partners to make more sustainable products for consumers and the planet alike. 

Strategically we had to make Smiley’s unbridled optimism work for a more serious conversation before launching the movement and brand.

Do More With Less

Inspired by the strategy, we created a stripped-back brand language. Every detail was carefully thought out and our method was to make the biggest statement with the least flair. The application of such restraint worked in direct contrast to the excitement of the bold, yellow brand. 

The design centred on the creation of a reduction device. Made by using the ‘offcuts’ of the Smiley face, this lock-up highlights areas of importance and positive change. From the logo, through to graphic devices, the shape connects the brand across all formats and touchpoints.

The decision to use minimalistic black and white brand colours not only allowed brand partners to sing, but also meant that in print and digital executions, less energy was used in production.

Accompanying the stripped back palette, the brand uses simple typography to communicate in both a clear and legible way, but also in a tonality that’s synonymous in high end fashion. With this approach in mind, each touch point of the brand is intended to balance both economically responsible practice, while retaining a polished and high-end aesthetic.

While the brand insists on agnostic design principles, its intention and strength is to allow products and collections to be celebrated — adding life, energy, and individuality into brand application through the supporting art direction, unique to each independent Future Positive campaign.

The use of sub-data/information in combination as iconography is applied to provide clarity and economic responsibility on behalf of Smiley and their accompanying partners, cementing their commitment to creating sustainable products.

When it comes to discussion of environmental issues, tonality is everything. Greenwashing is rife, and we were careful not to allow Smiley’s trademark happiness to lead us down the road of toxic positivity. “Ground Optimism”, Smiley’s brand vision, was brought to life with a tone that was purposeful and free of platitudes. Our four key pillars: “Obligated, Minimal, Ambitious, To The Point,” acted as our launchpad. Taking inspiration from Dieter Rams “10 Principles of Good Design”, we wrote a stripped-back manifesto — one that made our principles our identity. This was then brought to life through executions where facts about production were at the forefront. Finally, our tagline “Made Different. Made Better”, was a promise to consumers that any product associated with Future Positive was a step toward a better type of consumption.

Launch Campaign





Smiley – ‘Less is More’

Creating and launching Smiley’s ‘Future Positive’ brand to support their first ever sustainability partner programme.

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Stereo Creative

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