Susan Kare

Susan Kare

Artist and graphic designer Susan Kare is known as a master of creating icons. Her groundbreaking career began at Apple in 1983, where she used just a handful of pixels to design typefaces and icons that have become part of the visual language of computing. 

Kare’s most recognizable works from the early days of Apple include the Chicago typeface, the Geneva typeface, the original monospace Monaco typeface, the “Happy Mac” smiling computer that welcomed users when starting their machines, and the “command” key symbol on Apple keyboards.

Her work for the original Macintosh operating system launched a distinguished career. The Museum of Modern Art in New York describes Kare as “a pioneering and influential computer iconographer,” whose icon designs “communicate their function immediately and memorably, with wit and style.”

A native of Ithaca, New York, Kare studied art at Mount Holyoke and graduated summa cum laude. She then continued her education at New York University where she earned both an M.A. and Ph.D. in fine arts. After graduating, she moved to San Francisco where she worked a curatorial job for the Museum of Modern Art. In 1982, having returned to doing her own art, Kare was hired by Apple to design user interface graphics and fonts. At the time, digital typefaces were monospaced, a legacy of how a typewriter advances, one space at a time. Kare designed the first proportionally spaced digital font family that allowed text to appear on screen as naturally on the pages of a book. In 1986, she became one of the original employees of NeXT, the company formed by Steve Jobs after leaving Apple in 1985.

In 1989, Kare founded her own digital design firm, Susan Kare LLP. Her projects have included designing icons for the Windows and IBM OS/2 operating systems and bitmapping the virtual deck in the Windows version of Solitaire. In 2006, Kare began producing icons—such as, birthday cakes, engagement rings, roses, and disco balls—for Facebook’s “gifts” feature.

Kare is the author of Susan Kare Icons, a curated look at 80 of her favorite icons created between 1983 and 2011. She also sells limited edition, signed, and numbered fine-art prints of her classic designs.

Class Year: 
1975

Mount Holyoke College

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