This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good

Susan Kare. Sketches for Graphic User Interface Icons


Susan Kare: Hi, my name is Susan Kare. I'm a graphic designer and icon designer.  I got my start working on the Macintosh computer, the first one, in the early eighties for Apple. And these notebooks contain sketches that I brought to my interview.

It was my first pen to paper thinking about how do you create symbols using a small number of monochromatic pixels. Because I didn't have a computer at the time, I was encouraged to get graph paper on the Macintosh there were 32 pixels in about half an inch. So an icon was 32 by 32, around a thousand pixels—quite a bit of freedom, even in a small space with one color.

When I got to Apple there was a tremendous focus on designing the Macintosh so that it would be, as the ad said, “the computer for the rest of us.” And a big part of that was using visual design to communicate. You didn't have to be a programmer, you didn't have to have specialized knowledge, you didn't have to remember complicated key sequences. Little pictures and symbols made that computer accessible. So, I think in that way design did, and can, serve as a bridge to be a great equalizer.

Paola Antonelli: Kare’s design for the command key still appears on Apple keyboards today. To hear how she developed that icon, press 3-1-2-0.

9 / 10