Susan Kare – The Designer Who Made the Mac Smile

Posted December 2nd, 2011


Point, click. The gestures and metaphors of icon-driven computing feel so natural and effortless to us now, it seems strange to recall navigating in the digital world any other way”, writes Plos.” “Until Apple’s debut of the Macintosh in 1984, however, most of our interactions with computers looked more like this:

How did we get from there to here?”

Meet Susan Kare, the woman who designed the original Mac icons. The New York Times ran a story about her in 1996 already.

Excerpt: “Much junk food has been eaten and many caffeine-laden drinks have been consumed. The code is almost complete. Then suddenly, someone realizes that the new software program will be used by people, not programmers, and not too much thought has been given to its public face.

That is often when the phone rings at Susan Kare’s San Francisco studio. It is where Ms. Kare, who designed the signature icons of the Macintosh (the moving watch, the paintbrush and, of course, the trash can) as well as most of the icons in Microsoft’s Windows 3.0 program, spins the threads of her imagination onto the computer screen, and thence around the world.

Her goal is to help software writers improve the overall “look and feel” of their products, from the borders on the overlapping windows to the drop-down menus.

But her bread and butter are the tiny electronic images known as icons that computer users click on dozens of times a day.

From her studio overlooking the leafy Presidio, Ms. Kare, 42, focuses on the postage-stamp-sized square of 1,024 dots that make up an average icon. (Some smaller icons have only 256 dots.) Like a modern mosaicist, she spends her days manipulating the color of each dot to create her images. ”

Read on at the New York Times.

The Sketchbook of Susan Kare, the Artist Who Gave Computing a Human Face

Plos: “Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac’s GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn’t been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now*, she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing — each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen.” Read on and check out the pages from the sketchbook at Plos.

- – Susan Kare’s homepage.
- Know Your Icons Part 1 – A Brief History of Computer Icons
- Know Your Icons Part 2 – Modern Icon Design
- The History of Windows Icons
- Common Usability Terms: the Icon