Susan Kare is a pioneering and influential computer iconographer. She has designed thousands of software icons that are familiar to anyone who uses a computer. The Museum of Modern Art in New York praised Kare’s designs for being able to “communicate their function immediately and memorably, with wit and style.”
Recruited by Andy Hertzfield in 1982, Susan Kare was put to work on the icons and fonts for the original Macintosh computer. Countless numbers of users have worked with her art, and have not even recognized it as such. Her beginning at Apple was very primitive. Without bitmap image editors, Kare began her work on sheets of graph paper with a pencil. She designed all of the typefaces included with the original Mac, and almost all of the icons.
Her task was a difficult one. She had to create attractive sets of icons and characters that would be viewed for hours every day by the Mac’s users that were not only attractive, but easy to understand. On top of that, the icons had to be smaller than 32 pixels high and wide. She was given some independence, but Steve Jobs still exercised much influence with the icons’ design. Many of her designs were also used in the marketing of the original Mac. Her most famous of these is the Japanese woodcut that she digitized, which was included in the Macintosh brochure in 1984.
After having completed her work at Apple in 1986, Kare left and joined Steve Job’s NeXT, where she supervised the design of icons, brochures, ads and packaging. She later worked for Microsoft, where she designed the icons used in Windows 3.0, along with many other interface designs. She also helped design some of the interface elements in IBM’s OS/2 Warp. Her work was first revised by Paulien Strijand as part of Apple’s update to the Macintosh with System 7. Despite the revisions, her work helped shape the way users work everywhere, and has created icons that almost all users recognize.
All prints and images © kareprints.com.
Today, Susan Kare still works as a user interface designer in California. She sells limited edition prints (each one signed by Kare herself) and also sells a book called ICONS. Most recently she has designed two special edition watches for MetaWatch.