Happy Digital

History of the Happy Digital Logo

Back in 1999, I left my old job as a graphic artist / avid editor in order to start up my own company and pursue graphics software development. I tossed around a handful of possible names for my company, but none of them seemed to convey what I wanted. I did like the word "digital", though. More to the point, I needed a logo.

In my old job, I created dozens of original logos for television programs and traced literally hundreds of corporate sponsor logos for 3D treatment. You would think that it should be a snap to create a logo for my own company. But it wasn't. This was a logo I was going to stick with for a long time, so it had to be good. It had to be me.

I let it go for the time being, and did some of the administrative things you have to do when you start a business. But it got to the point where I needed the name in order to continue. That night, I sat down at my desk, slapped down a blank sheet of paper and told myself that whatever I came up with in the next ten minutes would have to do. The printouts of other logos for inspiration were in vain, and I started envisioning circles, triangles, shapes, and other crappy ideas. Maybe starting my own company was not a good idea, I thought. "Oh well, let's put something down", I said, and realized I didn't have a pencil. So I threw open my desk drawer in search of a sharp pencil.

You should understand that this drawer had been accumulating junk for the better part of a decade, and it contained a variety of artist implements, papers, junk, and uh, more junk. So the chances of finding anything smaller than a grapefruit were remote at best. But on this fateful night, the instant I opened that drawer, the smallest object of all came immediately into view. Wedged in the corner of the drawer was a tiny scrap of paper, less than a quarter inch square, on which was drawn a happy face, blissfully smiling at me. I dug it out of the corner and immediately scanned it in at the highest resolution my scanner could muster.

The original Happy Digital logo, no more than a quarter inch on a side. For reference, the pale gray line across the bottom is one of the blue lines on the piece of looseleaf from which the small square was torn.

"Well there's my logo", I said.

You might wonder why there was a tiny scrap of paper with a happy face on it wedged in my drawer. To understand that part of the story, let's go back another five years, to 1993. As a bored highschool student, I had a habit of doodling during my classes. Many doodles were doodled during english class, for example, and happy faces were not uncommon. My workbooks were filled with thousands upon thousands of useless little doodles of all kinds.

Now jump ahead two more years, to 1995. In a mass cleaning spree, I was throwing out boxes upon boxes of old school notebooks. Some of them contained useful information, but more importantly, good doodles. I would flip through some of the books if they were likely to have something good, or something funny. With so many books to get through, it was only by chance that I happened to flip to one particular page in an old english class notebook, where I had apparently been attempting to draw the perfect happy face. I had apparantly drawn literally hundreds of attempts, interleaved between assignment questions, but I eventually stopped. I had stopped not because the class was over, but because the last happy face I drew that day was indeed the perfect one. Remembering this, I carefully ripped just the single perfect happy face from the page and tossed the rest of the book in the trash. I popped the tiny square of paper into my pencil case and moved on.

A year later, having finished with my pencil case once and for all, I came to salvage anything useful that was still inside it. There were a couple broken pencils, used-up pens, an eraser, which was salvageable, and stuck in the seam was a tiny, dog-eared, torn-out piece of paper on which I just happened to catch a glimpse of something written. On closer inspection it was not written, but drawn. A happy face. For no reason beyond keeping what I had previously kept, I tossed the little scrap of paper into my drawer, instead of the garbage.

There it lay for three whole years, myself oblivious to the great inspiration that it would later instill in me.

"So I guess I should call it 'Happy Digital' then", I said, and smiled.

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