Never Alone: Video Games and Other Interactive Design

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Susan Kare. Apple Macintosh OS icon sketchbook. 1982 131

Susan Kare. Sketches for Graphic User Interface Icons. 1982

Curator, Paola Antonelli: Kare's design for the command key still appears on Apple keyboards today.

Artist, Susan Kare: Before the command key was the cloverleaf that we recognize now, it was a small bitmap version of the Apple logo. Steve Jobs came in one day and said, “There's too many logos on the screen … the logo has to be the exalted logo. It can’t be taken for granted.”

So, we were encouraged to find something else that would stand for command or feature. At first I thought about the Ten Commandments, and police hats, and badges, and all the things that maybe symbolize a command. But they seemed too harsh and they didn’t make that much sense in the menu. I was thumbing through a symbol dictionary and I saw a four leaf clover shaped symbol. And it said that it was used in Swedish campgrounds to denote an interesting feature. if you were sightseeing. And I thought, “Oh great, it means feature, it's abstract, but it's kind of friendly, and it's really easy to express in pixels.”

Apple ended up using it, and still does, on the keyboard and in the menus. But, not that many years ago, somebody emailed me and said, “It actually isn't abstract, it's a castle with turrets seen from above.” Thanks to the internet, you could find the twelfth century castle in Sweden shot from above that looks a lot like the command key. So it was fun years later to see that it wasn't just abstract.