Susan Kare

icon design

susan kare

Susan Kare (b. 1954) is an artist and graphic designer who created many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. She left Apple with Steve Jobs in 1985 to be the Creative Director at his new company NeXT.

Kare was born in Ithaca, New York, and is the sister of noted aerospace engineer Jordin Kare. She graduated from Harriton High School in 1971, received her B.A., summa cum laude, in Art from Mount Holyoke College in 1975 and her Ph.D. from New York University in 1978. She next moved to San Francisco and worked for the Museum of Modern Art. Today, the MOMA store in New York City carries stationery and notebooks featuring her designs.

She joined Apple Computer after receiving a call from high school friend Andy Hertzfeld in the early 1980s. Along with Hertzfeld, she became a member of the original Apple Macintosh design team. Kare was originally hired into the Macintosh software group to design user interface graphics and fonts; her business cards read ‘HI Macintosh Artist.’ Later, she was a Creative Director in Apple Creative Services working for the Director of that organization, Tom Suiter. She is the designer of many typefaces, icons, and original marketing material for the original Macintosh operating system. Descendants of her groundbreaking work can still be seen in many computer graphics tools and accessories, especially icons such as the Lasso, the Grabber, and the Paint Bucket. An early pioneer of pixel art, her most recognizable works from her time with Apple are the ‘Chicago’ typeface (the most prominent user interface typeface seen in Classic Mac OS, as well as the typeface used in the first four generations of the Apple iPod interface), the ‘Geneva’ typeface, the original monospace ‘Monaco’ typeface, Clarus the Dogcow (used to show the orientation and color of the paper in Mac OS page setup dialog boxes), the Happy Mac (the smiling computer that welcomed Mac users when starting their machines), and the symbol on the Command key on Apple keyboards.

After leaving Apple, Kare joined NeXT as a designer, working with clients such as Microsoft and IBM. Her projects for Microsoft included the card deck for Windows 3.0’s solitaire game, as well as numerous icons and design elements for Windows 3.0. Many of her icons, such as those for Notepad and various Control Panels, remained essentially unchanged by Microsoft until Windows XP. For IBM she produced icons and design elements for OS/2; for Eazel she contributed iconography to the Nautilus file manager. In 2003 she was one of the founding team of Glam Media (now Mode Media), a marketing firm. In 2007, she produced icons for the ‘Gifts’ feature of the popular social-networking website, Facebook. Initially, profits from gift sales were donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, for the fight against breast cancer. After Valentine’s Day, the gift selection was modified to include new and limited edition gifts that did not necessarily pertain to holidays. One of the gift icons, titled ‘Big Kiss’ is also featured in some versions of Mac OS X as a user account picture. In 2012, she was called as an expert witness by Apple in the company’s patent infringement trial against industry competitor Samsung. Kare currently heads a digital design practice in San Francisco and sells signed prints at kareprints.com.

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