Susan Kare received a B.A., summa cum laude, from Mount Holyoke College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in fine arts from New York University. In 1989, she was a founding partner of Susan Kare LLP. She is a 2001 recipient of the Chrysler Design Award.


My career in user interface graphic design began when I worked for Apple Computer between 1983 and 1986. My job: icon and font designer for a new computer, the Macintosh. The task: to transform small grids of black and white pixels into a family of symbols that would assist people in operating the computer. The design process involved the search for the strongest metaphors, and the craft of depicting them. My work also focused on developing a set of proportional typefaces for the computer screen; a departure from the monospaced characters typically found on typewriters and earlier computers. With the icon and font work, I hoped to help counter the stereotypical image of computers as cold and intimidating.

My work has continued to be motivated by respect for, and empathy with, users of software. I believe that good icons are more akin to road signs rather than illustrations, and ideally should present an idea in a clear, concise, and memorable way. I try to optimize for clarity and simplicity even as palette and resolution options have increased. I rely on common sense; when I designed buttons, icons, and other screen images for Microsoft's Windows 3.0 in 1987, I was able to use the 16-color palette to replace black rectangles with images that looked like three-dimensional "pressable" buttons. I was also challenged to fine tune many images for applications by using dithered patterns of color to offset the constraints of the limited VGA palette.

Although I've designed thousands of icons for hundreds of clients over the past eighteen years, I still search for better metaphors-perennial brain twisters such as "undo", "save", and "run program" come to mind. I have endeavored to make all kinds of software more intuitive: programs designed for na? users, for experts in vertical markets, for technical audiences, and for more or less everyone.

The nature of user interface design is collaborative; much great software is the result of a team effort among engineers, marketing types, and designers. My design work-installed at the top level of software-has often been inspired by imaginative and breakthrough engineering. Current work that intrigues me is having the opportunity to improve the quality of small monochrome icons and typefaces in fast-proliferating handheld devices, in addition to the larger and more colorful images on computer monitors. I work to hone the meaning and appearance of each image, and I hope the cumulative effect makes the process of interacting with machines-the way people "see" the software-more gratifying.


Apple Computer, Inc.Microsoft Corporation
AT&TMotorola, Inc.
Autodesk, Inc.Net Objects, Inc.
BBDO, Inc.Netscape Communications
CKS GroupOctel, Inc.
Danger Research, Inc.OmniSky Corporation
Dayton-Hudson CorporationOracle, Inc.
Electronic Arts, Inc.Palm, Inc.
Fidelity InvestmentsPeoplesoft, Inc.
G1 SoftwarePumatech, Inc.
Getty Technology GroupSGI, Inc.
HandspringShockwave, Inc
IBM CorporationSiegel & Gale
Intel CorporationSony Pictures
InfoseekSPSS, Inc.
Intuit, Inc.TechTV/ZDTV, LLC
Liquid Audio, Inc.Xerox Corporation
LogitechVividence Corporation