The Sketches That Became Our Familiar Computer Icons

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How did we get from the text-based system of MS-DOS to the graphic-charged interfaces of today's smartphones and iPads?

Over at his NeuroTribes blog, Steve Silberman reveals for the first time the sketches of artist Susan Kare, the early member of Apple's team, who drew (by hand!) the icons we love.

Silberman writes:

The challenge of designing a personal computer that "the rest of us" would not only buy, but fall crazy in love with, however, required input from the kind of people who might some day be convinced to try using a Mac. Fittingly, one of the team's most auspicious early hires was a young artist herself: Susan Kare.

...

Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac's GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn't been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now [some were included in a presentation earlier this fall], she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing -- each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen.

Below, some of the pages of Kare's sketchbook.

Paste:

finger.jpg
Paintbrush:

paintbrush.jpg

Cut:

scissors.jpg

Apple:

applesketch.jpg

De-bug:

debug1.jpg

For more sketches and more on Susan Kare, check out the full piece.

Images: Susan Kare/NeuroTribes.
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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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