Susan Kare, Biography

Susan Kare was born in Ithaca, New York in 1954. She graduated from Harriton High School in 1971, received her BA, summa cum laude, in Art from Mount Holyoke College in 1975, and went on to get her PhD from New York University in 1978.  After college, Kare moved to San Francisco where she worked in an art museum.  (Susan Kare, Wikipedia)


Susan received a call from a high school friend, Andy Hertzfeld, asking her to join Apple Computer Inc.  She was the Creative Director for Apple from 1982-1985.  Kare’s few years at Apple set a tone for how people were able to relate to computers.  Her work was revolutionary, bringing a sense of ease for the average person using computers.  (Legend: Susan Kare)


As the creative designer at Apple, Dr. Kare created typefaces and Icons, along with the original MacIntosh OS.  She created the Lasso, the grabber, paint bucket, Chicago and Geneva typefaces, the first three generations of Apple iPod interfaces, The happy mac (a smiling computer welcoming users), the command symbol, and Clarus the dog, which was designed to indicate pages printing horizontal or vertical.  (Susan Kare, Wikipedia)  (Technology; Building an Alternative to Windows)  Clarus the dogSome of the most memorable Icons created by Kare were the trash can (for discarding files), the Mona Lisa face (letting people know the computer is working), and the clock (letting someone know the computer is busy and cannot be used).  (Art that Clicks)  Kare also created the bomb, which was originally created to let a user know there was a serious system failure.  This was thought to rarely ever be seen by the user. 


SolitaireKare left Apple in to join NeXT, a computer company, in 1986 as the creative director.  She later became an independent graphic designer working with several different companies including Microsoft, where she created a deck of cards for Windows solitaire.  The Museum of Art in New York began featuring her designs on stationary and notebooks.  In 2007, Susan was brought on to Facebook to designValentine’s gifts “gifts” that could be purchased for a dollar.  (Give gifts on Facebook!)  The donations were originally going to Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation, the fight against cancer.  After success with the gifts on Facebook, she created limited edition gifts and gifts for the new year.  (Susan Kare, Wikipedia)


Dr. Kare has had immense success in her field.  She was awarded the Chrysler Design Award in October 2001, which is a prestigious award for innovation and achievement in various disciplines of design.  “Susan Kare, an interface graphic designer in San Francisco, is known for the family of desktop icons produced for Apple, including the wristwatch whose hands spin as a task is performed — work that has become a humorous, reassuring standard for personal computing software.”  (With the World Redesigned, What Role for Designers?)  Although she has become quite successful and has the power to have a staff do most of the busy work for her, Kare would rather be doing the work than promoting. 


Currently, she is a partner in Susan Kare LLP, creative director for Chumby Industries, Inc. and co-founder for  She divides her time equally between work, her husband, dog and three sons, and recreational surfing, skiing, crafts, and reading.  (Susan Kare, personal communication, February 10, 2008)  Although she is extremely busy in her professional life, she manages to find a balance between personal as well.


All images (c) Susan Kare 2001Dr Kare has been able to think outside the box, placing her computer Icons in places to reach larger audiences.  There is a shop link on her website, Shop Susan Kare, where you can purchase a T-shirt with an Icon on it, or a mouse pad.  One of these T-shirts was worn on a little boy in New York Time magazine for the world to see.  Dr Kare has arrived, as her designs are now being presented in print advertisements.

New York Time Magazine, all images (c) Susan Kare 2001 



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