Artist and graphic designer Susan Kare is known for creating many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. Over the years, she created thousands of icons for hundreds of companies and was one of the original employees of NeXT, the company Steve Jobs created after leaving Apple in 1985, serving as its Creative Director. Graduated summa cum laude (a level of distinction with which an academic degree has been earned) with a B.A. in Art from Mount Holyoke College in 1975, and a Ph.D. from New York University in 1978. Kare then moved to San Francisco and worked for the Fine Arts Museums before joining the computer industry.
In 1982 Susan joined Apple Computer and started to work on the original Apple Macintosh design team as an Icon and Typeface Designer. Her task was to create a set of typefaces, symbols, interface graphics and fonts in order to improve one of the company’s screen designs. Later, she became a Creative Director in Apple Creative Services and worked for the Director of that organization, Tom Suiter. As the result of her work there, she designed many typefaces, icons, and original marketing material for the original Macintosh operating system.
Kare’s designs created the first visual language for Apple’s new point-and-click computing. Descendants of her groundbreaking work can still be seen in many computer graphics tools and accessories. Susan was an early pioneer of pixel art, and her most recognizable works from her time with Apple are the symbol on the Command key on their keyboards, the Happy Mac (a smiling computer that welcomed Mac users when they were starting their machines), the Chicago typeface, the Geneva typeface, the original monospace Monaco typeface and Clarus the Dogcow.
After leaving Apple, Susan joined NeXT as a designer, and worked with clients such as Microsoft and IBM. At Microsoft, she started to improve her work by adding colors, and developed 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 the company until Windows XP. For IBM, Kare designed icons and elements for OS/2. In 2003, she became one of the founding team members of Glam Media, now known as Mode Media.
Beginning in 2007, Susan has produced icons for the “Gifts” feature of Facebook. Initially, all the profits were donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Since 2010, Kare has been heading a digital design practice in San Francisco, where she creates limited edition fine art prints available for purchase at Kareprints.com. Her stationery and notebooks featuring her designs are sold at The Museum of Modern Art store in New York City, which demonstrates the significance of Susan’s contribution to the development of the computer graphic design.
More than just a woman in the world of graphic design, Susan Kare is an inspiration to many creative female designers following in her footsteps. She dared to dream in pixels and started her career early in a field dominated by male designers, having conquered her space there with creations that are are still used in computer systems more than 30 years later.