The woman who gave Apple’s Macintosh a smile

“Every fifteen minutes or so, as I wrote this story, I moved my cursor northward to click on the disk in the Microsoft Word toolbar that indicates ‘Save.’ This is a superstitious move, as my computer automatically saves my work every ten minutes. But I learned to use a computer in the era before AutoSave, in the dark ages when remembering to save to a disk often stood between you and term-paper disaster,” Alexandra Lange writes for The New Yorker. “The persistence of that disk icon into the age of flash drives and cloud storage is a sign of its power. A disk means ‘Save.’ Susan Kare designed a version of that disk, as part of the suite of icons that made the Macintosh revolutionary—a computer that you could communicate with in pictures.”

“Kare, who is sixty-four, will be honored for her work on April 20th, by her fellow designers, with the prestigious AIGA medal,” Lange writes. “In 1982, she was a sculptor and sometime curator when her high-school friend Andy Hertzfeld asked her to create graphics for a new computer that he was working on in California. Kare brought a Grid notebook to her job interview at Apple Computer. On its pages, she had sketched, in pink marker, a series of icons to represent the commands that Hertzfeld’s software would execute. Each square represented a pixel. A pointing finger meant ‘Paste.’ A paintbrush symbolized ‘MacPaint.’ Scissors said ‘Cut.’ Kare told me about this origin moment: ‘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,’ she said. ‘But I loved the puzzle-like nature of working in sixteen-by-sixteen and thirty-two-by-thirty-twopixel icon grids, and the marriage of craft and metaphor.’””

“She also designed a number of the original Mac fonts, including Geneva, Chicago, and the picture-heavy Cairo, using only a nine-by-seven grid,” Lange writes. “Her notebooks are part of the permanent collections of the New York and San Francisco modern-art museums, and one was included in the recent London Design Museum exhibit ‘California: Designing Freedom.’

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:
happy Mac icon

Mac graphic designer Susan Kare offers hand-painted replicas Apple’s legendary pirate flag – November 24, 2014
Why Steve Jobs replaced the Mac’s  key with ⌘ – June 23, 2014
Apple alumni and how they went on to change the world – October 4, 2012


  1. Read this exact same story years ago. Maybe in the Bio? Anyhoo that version of the story went into a little more detail and in fact stated Steve Jobs as the interviewer, with all the others details about the grid etc. the same. It didn’t mention a pink marker though.

    Tech “journalism” strikes again?

  2. ““Every fifteen minutes or so, as I wrote this story, I moved my cursor northward to click on the disk in the Microsoft Word toolbar that indicates ‘Save.’”
    Why? Just use Command-Save, far faster, and you get to use the Swedish clover thing that Susan Kare co-opted to indicate “command”.

  3. Just looking at my copy of the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines that I consult for web page design.

    Basic principles are timeless, not a popular idea in this hipster age, but I don’t don’t care. I have enough life experience to know what works and what doesn’t.

    Tim and Jony: read the damn thing and get every employee back on track. The iOS kiddies especially.

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