Susan Kare



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Susan Kare | A pioneer in the field of interface design

My contribution for Ada Lovelace Day is dedicated to Susan Kare.

Susan Kare, the “Mother of GUI”:

Happy Mac

Have you ever used a Macintosh computer? If yes, do you know the key on the bottom left of your keyboard that says  “command”. Can you picture the cloverleaf-like “infinite loop” symbol beside that? Or how about the the “Happy Mac” icon image to the left? Kane designed them.

OK, so you’re not a Mac user. Do you know the fonts Geneva, Chicago and Monaco? Kane created them.

How about Facebook - have you ever received or given a “gift” on Facebook? You know the pixel images that you can send to a friend? Kare designed many of the icons for the Facebook Gifts application.

So, you don’t use a Mac, you haven’t heard of those fonts and you’ve never been on Facebook?! Have you played Solitaire? Kare designed the graphics for the computer game.


A member of the original Apple team, Kare designed the user-interface for the first Macintosh computer. She pioneered pixel art and icon-making, both as a functional tool and a fine art. Clients of Kare’s design practice, Susan Kare User Interface Graphics, have included Autodesk, Facebook, Getty Images, Glam Media, Hyperion, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Motorola, Nokia, San Francisco Water & Power, Siebel, Swatch, and Weatherbug. Kare recently created a line of retail products for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She is currently the Creative Director at  Chumby, where she is working on the Chumby device, a handheld computer that runs software widgets.

“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.”
- Susan Kare.

Kare has been called the “Matisse of computer icons”. She is truly a pioneer in the field of interface design.

Icons by Susan Kare

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Some other notable women in technology, media and design:

  • Ada Lovelace: described as the “first computer programmer”.
  • Hedy Lamarr: an actor and communications technology innovator. Co-inventor of the first form of spread spectrum, a key to modern wireless communication.
  • Grace Hopper: an American computer scientist and naval officer. A pioneer in the field, she was the first programmer of the Mark I Calculator and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. Known as the “Mother of COBOL.
  • Barbara H. Liskov: first American female Doctorate of Computer Science (1968).
  • Roberta Williams: a well-known computer and video games game designer and arguably the most influential female gamer of her time. In March 2002, GameSpy listed Williams as one of the 30 Most Influential People in Gaming.
  • Sally Floyd: most renowned for her work on Transmission Control Protocol.
  • Anita Borg: founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology (IWT). Read about the “Pass-it-on” awards program.
  • Jeri Ellsworth: created a Commodore 64 emulator within a joystick, called C64 Direct-to-TV.
  • Mary Lou Jepsen: founding chief technology officer of One Laptop Per Child.
  • Frances E. Allen: First female recipient of the ACM’s Turing Award.
  • A notable/ intriguing mention for Frances Gabe: Inventor of the self-cleaning house!
  • Barbara Askins: Inventor who developed a totally new way of processing film.
  • Krisztina Holly: Helped develop the world’s first computer-generated, full-color reflection hologram.
  • Muriel Cooper: A pioneer of design for digital media, who founded the Visible Language Workshop, part of MIT’s Media Lab, in 1975. Cooper worked with her students to create an electronic language for building ‘typographic landscapes‘ – complex, malleable documents in real time and three-dimensional space. Cooper gave concrete functions to such principles as layered information, simultaneous texts, and typographic texture. Cooper’s work was signified by a focus upon information design and the use of clean, simple lines. She was the first art director of the MIT Press — for which she also designed their logo.
  • Red Burns: Considered by many to be the godmother of Silicon Alley, New York’s downtown multimedia hub. Burns is the head of New York University’s Interactive Technology Program. During the 1970s and 1980s, she designed and directed a series of telecommunications projects. Burns has received a number of awards including the Matrix, and Crain’s All-Stars Educator’s Award. She has also been named one of Newsweek’s 50 for the Future, one of Silicon Alley Reporter’s 100 Top Internet Industry Executives in New York and one of Crain’s 100 Most Influential Women in Business in New York. She received the Mayor of New York’s Award for Excellence in Science & Technology.
  • Laurie Anderson: Experimental performance artist and musician. Invented several devices that she has used in her recordings and performance art shows and created a number of multimedia presentations.
  • Elaine Bass: Film title designer for movies including Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear (1991) and Casino (1995). These titles were innovate at the time as they were conceived as films-within-a-film, narrative sequences that set the tone for the drama to follow.
  • Marian Bantjes: Innovative typographer whose work has included projects for Saks Fifth Avenue, Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Bierut/Pentagram, the AIGA, Winterhouse, Bruce Mau Design, Rick Valicenti (Thirst), Print Magazine, wired, The New York Times, Wallpaper, The Guardian, seed, FontShop, Houghton-Mifflin, Little, Brown & Co., Knopf Books, Young & Rubicam Chicago, and numerous other publications and companies.
  • Esther Dyson, the “Mother of Start-Ups”. Founding director of ICANN, author, serial entrepreneur and serial venture capitalist. Dyson was an early investor in Flickr,, Zedo, Technorati, and many more start-ups. “Release 2.0: A design for living in the digital age”, her 1997 book on how the Internet affects individuals’ lives helped me to think clearly about the “Digital Age” while studying for my undergraduate degree.
  • Molly Holzschlag, the “Mother of Web Standards”. Lecturer, author and was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women on the Web. Molly promotes standards and best practices to create highly sustainable, maintainable, accessible, interactive and beautiful Web sites.
  • Jessica Helfand: Critic, author, lecturer and designer of interactive media. A “founding writer” of the Design Observer weblog.
  • Loretta Staples: Head of U dot I, specializing in the design of graphical user interfaces (GUI). She focused exclusively on the design of graphical user interfaces for 15 years at Apple Computer; in her own consultancy, U dot I; and most recently at Scient, an eBusiness strategy consulting firm. Her work has included specialised applications, conceptual models, and prototypes for emerging technologies.
  • danah boyd: Social media expert, researcher at Microsoft Research New England, a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society and blogger.