Lyons. Susan Kare, an IT icon at the Printing Museum

There was a time when computers were reserved for IT specialists, and for professional use. In 1982, two young students, Steve Jobs and Andy Herzfeld, had the intuition that this machine could have daily and domestic use, and fit into every home. A real stroke of technical and commercial genius, which required real adaptation. It was necessary to humanize this technological tool, and invent a new language. For this, the two young Californians called on a young graphic designer, doctor of art from the University of New York. By changing the face of computing, Susan Kare made it accessible to everyone, thanks to the famous icons she designed.

It all starts with a smile

The first icon is a smile. In the early years, the first users of Macintoshes were greeted by this smiley icon, to certify that the computer was ready for use. “It was a request from Steve Jobs” underlines Susan Kare in the booklet of the exhibition that the Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication is devoting to him until September 18th.

There was the smile, but also the bomb. When it appeared on the screen, the system had gone off the rails. And then there was the trash. Previously, to delete a file, you had to use a code. From now on, it was enough to slip it into this virtual trash can.

“I think good icons are more like road signs than illustrations. They should ideally present an idea in a clear, concise and memorable way,” explains the graphic designer. These icons have allowed everyone to use computers intuitively. They paved the way for the apps we all use on our smartphones. Susan Kare thus founded her own graphic design studio and created hundreds of icons for Facebook or Pinterest.


The graphic designer also worked on the development of the MacWrite software. An innovation that made it possible to offer seven different fonts, to mix them on the same text, to enlarge them, and to see the result on a live screen. A real typographical revolution. It is also to Susan Kare that we owe the fonts for city names (Geneva, Chicago, New York…).

The exhibition at the Musée de l’Imprimerie is a tribute to this graphic designer, a scholarly exegesis of her work, influenced in particular by the French Gustave Doré and Honoré Daumier. But it is also a lesson in the history of computing, and its transformation from a cold and complex tool intended for computer scientists, into a playful, intuitive and beautiful object, accessible to beginners.

Until September 18 at the Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication 13, rue de la Poulaillerie, Lyon 2nd. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Full price: €6 Tel: 04.37.23. 65.43.

A legendary CV

In 2021, at the age of 67, Susan Kare left her position as product design manager of the American website Pinterest to join Niantic Labs, a company specializing in augmented reality and the origin of the Pokémon Go mobile video game.

Joining Apple in 1982 to “humanize” the firm’s first personal computer, the Macintosh, Susan Kare continued her career with Steve Jobs at NeXT, where she notably worked on the graphical interface of the Windows 3.0 system with Microsoft.

A pioneer of pixel art, she continued her journey with Facebook, with the design of the first virtual gifts, emojis before their time, then Pinterest, still based in California, in San Francisco.

We would like to give thanks to the author of this short article for this awesome content

Lyons. Susan Kare, an IT icon at the Printing Museum

Check out our social media accounts as well as other pages that are related to them.