Some people say 'variety is the spice of life'. We agree. But sometimes understanding what's on offer to choose from in the world of emoticons is tough. We created this style guide to help you. The emoticons in the guide can be used as instant messenger emoticons, email emoticons as well as emoticons for forums. Different styles and sizes are compatible with different applications.
Click of any of the images below to find out more about a particular style...
Or carry on reading to find out more about how so many emoticon styles emerged and our thoughts on the debate about whether they're called emoticons or smileys.
Emoticons were invented by Scott Fahlman on the CMU bulletin board system. Scott came up with the idea for emoticons (a.k.a. smileys or smilies) because he noticed a problem on the bulletin board system. Certain people would post a humorous or sarcastic comment and the people reading it would not get the joke. That's because it was impossible to express thoughts and feelings like we do in face-to-face communications.
Scott invented the emoticon by suggesting the use of :-) to show pleasure and :-( to show displeasure. The idea solved a problem for many userswho felt restricted when trying to express emotions without face to face communication. Lots of people started using emoticons and the rest, as they say, is history! People started to design their own emoticons and today there are thousands to choose from in a range of different styles.
Emoticons are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The text based emoticons are rarely used today, having been replaced by graphically rich animated emoticons.
The word 'emoticon' is a combination of the words 'emotion' and 'icon' and is exactly that - an icon used to express emotion. The 'smiley' or the 'smiley face' is a stylized representation of a smiling human face with the most simple smiley being a yellow circle with two small dots representing eyes.
That's the theory. In reality as we look around websites similar to ours we see the words used interchangeably to mean the same thing. It seems that Europeans tend to call them 'emoticons' and Americans tend to refer to them as 'smileys' and when you get to Asia, it's different again. Confused?
We try to be consistent using the word 'emoticon' but do use 'smiley' to refer to a yellow smiley face. In our opinion, the word 'emoticon' can refer to any little icon that expresses emotion e.g. a little picture of a cat.