Susan Kare

Susan Kare

Susan Kare is one of the notable contemporary American graphic designers. During 1980s, she developed many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh. She worked as a creative director for the company NeXT that Steve Jobs founded after leaving Apple.

In 1954, Kare was born in Ithaca, New York. The intelligence and creative genius runs in the family as her sister Jordin Kare is an aerospace engineer. She received her formal education from Harriton High School (1971). Later she attended Mount Holyoke College and in 1975 earned her Bachelor of Honors, summa cum laude, in Arts. In 1978, she was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy from New York University. Afterwards she relocated to San Francisco and did a stint at Museum of Modern Art.

In the early 1980s, Kare received a call from high school friend Andy Hertzfeld, upon which she joined Apple Computer. She was a member of the original Apple Macintosh design team. The company primarily hired her into Macintosh software group and she was assigned the job to design user interface graphics and fonts. Soon after, she was promoted to the post of a Creative Director. She worked under the Director of that organization, Tom Suiter in Apple Creative Services. For the Macintosh operating system, Kare designed many typefaces, original marketing material and icons. The modified and revised versions of her original groundbreaking designs are still present in many computer graphics tools. For instance, her ingeniously designed icons such as the Lasso, the Grabber and the Paint Bucket are still used with some modification.

Kare’s most notable works from her time with Apple are the Chicago typeface. It was the most prominent typeface for the user interface, applied not only in Classic Mac OS but also the first four generations of Apple iPod interface. Another one of her recognizable creations were the original monospace Monaco typeface and Geneva typeface. Besides, her long list of original creations include the symbol on the Command key on Apple keyboards, the welcome screen icon the Happy Mac that greeted the users when the machine is turned on and Clarus the Dogcow.

Icons by Susan Kare

Icons by Susan Kare

After completing her tenure at Apple Computers, Kare accepted the job offer as a designer for NeXT. There she served the clients such as Microsoft and IBM. Working with Microsoft she managed the card deck for Windows 3.0’s solitaire game project. She also designed multiple icons for the Windows 3.0. Quite a number of icons she designed for Microsoft remained unchanged until Windows XP, such as Notepad and various Control Panels icons. She contributed iconography to the Nautilus file manager for Eazel and IBM sought her icon designing expertise for their interface. Moreover, stationery and notebooks featuring her designs are used at The Museum of Modern Art store in NYC. The popular social networking site, Facebook requested her to design the ‘Gift’ icon for their site in 2007. Some of the icons displayed in ‘Gift’ section are also featured in Mac OS X.

According to Susan Kare, good icons should be more efficient like road signs rather than mere illustrations. They should be easily comprehended and keep the users from getting confused by extraneous details. She is of the view that out of million colors all the colors don’t need to be incorporated in the icons and that once a well-crafted and meaningful icon is designed it doesn’t need to be resigned frequently.


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