Susan Kare

San Francisco designer with a highly developed ability to work creatively with a small number of pixels.

As creative director at Apple from 1982 to 1985 she was largely responsible for the cute look ’n’ feel of the Macintosh user interface, designing numerous icons and bitmap fonts for it. Chicago, New York, Geneva and the other “city” fonts were all designed by Kare (although the current TrueType versions were developed by Bigelow and Holmes). She later helped to define the look of Microsoft Windows 3.0 operating system.

Looking back on this project in 2000, Susan says:

“The fonts I designed at Apple in 1983 (New York, Geneva, Chicago, San Francisco [originally Ransom], Monaco etc.) were specifically designed for the screen. Most were named after Philadelphia suburbs (Paoli, Rosemont, Ardmore, and Harriton, Andy Hertzfeld’s and my high school. Management insisted that the cities be upgraded to ‘world-class’.)

“It was an opportunity to break away from monospace fonts with no descenders and w’s that had to be 5 dots wide. In fact, the Imagewriter wasn’t completed at the time — so the double size versions of those fonts for ‘hi-res’ printing came later. I was trying to optimize for screen legibility, minimize jaggies, and did NOT have to be consistent with any particular font (like Times or Helvetica). Adobe tried harder to optimize for allegiance to particular fonts with their bitmap versions. I began by trying to make a generic — clean and legible — serif and sans serif (with Geneva and New York). Chicago was my attempt to make a system/bold font with no jaggies. (Apple’s recent adjustment of the ‘W’ and ‘v’ in Chicago is painful!) Ultimately we might have added a few spacing tweaks to have Imagewriter output be in sync with what was on the screen.”