The Design Museum’s latest show California: Designing Freedom looks at the story arc of the US state that has gone from countercultural epicentre to innovation hub. Amid that is a collection of rough sketches drawn on squared paper by Susan Kare, that show the ideation of the symbols used in the Apple interface.
Susan designed the icons for the Macintosh’s graphical user interface. At the time, the notion of a GUI was revolutionary: just a few years prior to the Mac’s release, people could only interface with a computer through arcane commands written in code. By providing an image-based way to execute computer commands, the Macintosh made computers more intuitive and less intimidating.
As part of the original Mac team, Kare created some of the first digital fonts, the UI for MacPaint and some of the most persistent icons in computing such as the trash can/bin, the save disk and the smiling Mac. Kare added to the UI an element of friendliness and emotion. The icons that she designed were playful and simple enough to be recognisable to users around the world.
Susan Kare’s designs for a pixel-friendly GUI were probably as revolutionary and influential as the best typefaces.