Original Mac designer Susan Kare to receive prestigious AIGA medal

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2018
Susan Kare, a former Apple designer known to many as the "woman who gave the Macintosh a smile," will later this month receive an American Institute of Graphic Arts medal, an honor bestowed upon visual arts icons including Richard Avedon, Paul Rand, and Charles and Ray Eames.




Recently announced on AIGA's website, Kare is being recognized for the "bold and intelligent" icons, user interface graphics and fonts introduced with Apple's first Macintosh computers.

Originally accomplished in stark monochrome, and always under tight space constraints, Kare's often whimsical designs were among the first to humanize personal computing. Drawing from a wealth of cultural iconography, her work distills and conveys meaning through recognizable glyphs, from a trash can to a cherry bomb symbolizing a system crash to a paint brush and, of course, the infamous "Clarus the Dogcow."

Prior to Apple, Kare pursued a career in art after receiving a Ph.D. from New York University in 1982, according to a brief AIGA biography. She worked as a curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco before taking her craft to Palo Alto, a high-tech mecca where companies like Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Google and Facebook laid roots.

Kare was invited to apply for a graphic design job at Apple by former high school classmate Andy Hertzfeld. An original member of Apple's Macintosh team who helped develop the platform's operating system and other key software features, Hertzfeld was looking for a designer to imagine a user-friendly human-machine interface.

To accomplish the task, Kare pulled on her knowledge of mosaics, needlepoint and pointillism to create miniature artistic works that fit within the confines of bitmap graphics.

In a conversation with The New Yorker, published on Thursday, Kare said she brought a notebook with graph paper to her Apple job interview, on which was sketched draft versions of system icons. Blocking out a 32-by-32 grid allowed the designer to mimic pixel layouts that would ultimately end up on Mac displays.

"As soon as I started work, Andy Hertzfeld wrote an icon editor and font editor so I could design images and letterforms using the Mac, not paper," Kare said. "But I loved the puzzle-like nature of working in sixteen-by-sixteen and thirty-two-by-thirty-two pixel icon grids, and the marriage of craft and metaphor."

Kare is also credited with painting a pirate flag that flew above the Bandley 3 building at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus in 1983.

Following Apple, Kare established her own design firm, Susan Kare Design, and provided services to Microsoft, Facebook, Intel, IBM and other big-name clients.

Kare's work has been shown at a number of major museums including the National Museum of American History, Museum of Modern Art, SFMOMA and more. Most recently, her original Mac sketches appeared in MoMA's "This is for Everyone" exhibit in 2015. Kare also sells prints of her work -- and hand-painted Mac pirate flags -- at Kareprints.com.
edred

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Sometimes I wish today's Macs were more whimsical and hand-made than corporate and slick.
    xzurobin huberdysamoriabuzdots
  • Reply 2 of 12
    anomeanome Posts: 1,225member
    Well deserved.
    netroxdysamoriajony0
  • Reply 3 of 12
    ascii said:
    Sometimes I wish today's Macs were more whimsical and hand-made than corporate and slick.
    Amen.

    Lemon Bon Bon.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    I still have fond memories of System 7.  Beautiful.

    Lemon Bon Bon.
    xzu
  • Reply 5 of 12
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,730member
    ascii said:
    Sometimes I wish today's Macs were more whimsical and hand-made than corporate and slick.
    Always fun to go "back in the day", isn't it....
  • Reply 6 of 12
    My avatar must also be a Kare design -- it's from the same period (1984-1985). It is the icon for the one of the System Update files, either to Finder 1.1 or Finder 4.1. I'd have to crawl into the attic and check to be sure which. The AI avatar adapter blurs the pixels -- the original looks like this:

    http://www.earlymacintosh.org/graphics/SystemUpdate.jpg

    An homage to R. Crumb's "Keep on Truckin'" images.
    edited April 2018
  • Reply 7 of 12
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    The Dogcow lives!
    anome
  • Reply 8 of 12
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    My avatar must also be a Kare design -- it's from the same period (1984-1985). It is the icon for the one of the System Update files, either to Finder 1.1 or Finder 4.1. I'd have to crawl into the attic and check to be sure which. The AI avatar adapter blurs the pixels -- the original looks like this:

    http://www.earlymacintosh.org/graphics/SystemUpdate.jpg

    An homage to R. Crumb's "Keep on Truckin'" images.
    “Truckin’ my blues away.” RIP
  • Reply 9 of 12
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,921member
    Well deserved recognition. I wish I had known about her MoMA showing. I'd have made a trip to see that.

    "Funny" how, with all this color and resolution capability, Apple design has regressed much of its design backward to generic, ugly, boring garbage that lacks the readability, character, and depth of Kare's two-tone originals. Thanks, Jony.
  • Reply 10 of 12
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    macxpress said:
    ascii said:
    Sometimes I wish today's Macs were more whimsical and hand-made than corporate and slick.
    Always fun to go "back in the day", isn't it....
    It's not about past vs present for me, but new technology vs old. New/first-generation tech (even stuff invented today) has a different feel than established technology. 

    New stuff often feels partially hand-made by a group of engineers and artists who loved what they were doing. But established tech has often succumbed to business priorities. In the process of trying to make everything standardised and inoffensive they also take all the love out. I guess practically it has to be that way.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    anomeanome Posts: 1,225member
    The Dogcow lives!
    Moof!
  • Reply 12 of 12
    A PollockA Pollock Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    When I first observed the artistic work of Gabino Amaya Cacho I thought they were valuable figurative paintings. Now he paints something new and original, abstract pointillism, leaving the figurative for the moment. These paintings have a high level of abstraction, almost hypnotic and sets the imagination to flight, each point seems to have a different meaning, which each mind of each viewer grants it. I love his painting. What do you think?
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