4. Women Precursors in Technology: Susan Kare

June 21, 2016 | by Helena Hernandez

In Mac, UX, creative services


It is turn to talk about an important creator in the graphic design world. This woman was a pioneer in icon-driven computing. It took a long process to create what it seems and feels really natural today. 

The pixel art pioneer for digital interfaces

This time I’m going to talk about the woman that created a revolutionary system for graphic design: the digital interface design. I’m refering to the magnificent Susan Kare, an original member of the Apple Macintosh design team. Let’s learn more details about her:

Susan Kare was born in Ithaca, New York, in February 1954. She studied Fine Arts at Mount Holyoke College and received her PhD from New York University. After her studies, she moved to San Francisco because one of her high school friends invited her to work in a company called Apple Macintosh. In was here where she began her career as an interface graphic designer.

Her duty at Apple Macintosh was to complete a very special task: to transform grids of black and white pixels into symbols that would help the users to easily interact with their Macintosh.

Susan Kare managed to transform everyday elements into useful symbols.  The simplicity of these symbols represented a metaphor for the simplicity of the actions that the user would need to perform.  Susan Kare’s most known creation is the Happy Mac icon. For about 18 years, it was the first icon that Mac users saw once they turned on their equipment.


Susan’s work and creations, however, did not stop at icon designs.  She also designed typography. A Macintosh had something that no other computer had at that time: different kinds of typographies. Susan Kare was responsible for this. Some of her typographies are Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

After Apple, Susan also designed and created awesome things for Microsoft, Glam.com, Paypal, Facebook, SF Water and Power, and a number of startups. She now has her own digital design company in San Francisco, and her design work that made her famous worldwide has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Susan Kare’s work is transcendental because her icons were the first taste of human-computer interaction. Her work began a new chapter in the computing and design world. She once said “we have to keep things simple, pleasant and accessible. We have to use common sense, understand our user and provide him respect.”

This is the last part of the Women Precursors in Technology blog post series, but this does not mean that there are not many more women that contributed to the history of technology. I really wish I could write a thousand blog posts about this; however, these blog posts serve as prove that there are many women in technology history who have stood out and made the difference.


Magazine: Liz Basaldua. (March 2016). Las olvidadas de La Historia. Algarabia, 138, 40-41.