Susan Kare (born 1954) is an artist and graphic designer who created many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. She was also one of the original employees of NeXT (the company formed by Steve Jobs after leaving Apple in 1985), working as the Creative Director.

Kare joined Apple Computer, Inc. after receiving a call from her high school friend, Andy Hertzfeld, in the early 1980s. Susan Kare worked at Apple Computer starting in 1982 (Badge #3978). She was originally hired into the Macintosh software group to design user interface graphics and fonts; her business cards read “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. Indeed, 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, the Happy Mac (the smiling computer that welcomed Mac users when starting their machines), and the symbol on the Command key on Apple keyboards.

“My career in user interface graphic design began when I worked for Apple Computer between 1983 and 1986. My job: icon and font designer for a new computer, the Macintosh. The task: to transform small grids of black and white pixels into a family of symbols that would assist people in operating the computer. The design process involved the search for the strongest metaphors, and the craft of depicting them. My work also focused on developing a set of proportional typefaces for the computer screen; a departure from the monospaced characters typically found on typewriters and earlier computers. With the icon and font work, I hoped to help counter the stereotypical image of computers as cold and intimidating.

My work has continued to be motivated by respect for, and empathy with, users of software. I believe that good icons are more akin to road signs rather than illustrations, and ideally should present an idea in a clear, concise, and memorable way. I try to optimize for clarity and simplicity even as palette and resolution options have increased. I rely on common sense; when I designed buttons, icons, and other screen images for Microsoft’s Windows 3.0 in 1987, I was able to use the 16-color palette to replace black rectangles with images that looked like three-dimensional “pressable” buttons. I was also challenged to fine tune many images for applications by using dithered patterns of color to offset the constraints of the limited VGA palette.”

Graphics sourced from Gizmodo

Karen’s design work for Apple was a revolution in terms of visualization and creativity. The icons are still in use today, albeit in an updated style, to a point, but nevertheless, the basic features remain. Certain products and designs have a timeless quality, and here, Karen demonstrates her ingenuity and timeless working style to show a design still in use in millions of products today.

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