Featured Alumni Profiles

Susan Kare

Susan KarePhD '78, Fine Arts

Chances are you will recognize the work of Susan Kare before you recognize her name. As the highly respected designer of some of today's most well-known computer icons, including the Macintosh trash can, wrist watch, and happy face, Kare's designs have been a huge influence on graphic design today.

Before attending New York University to earn a Doctorate in Fine Arts from the Department of Art and Art Professions, Kare studied English and Fine Arts at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts. Her NYU studies focused on art history and studio art. Her favorite memories of NYU include studying with Dr. Janice Gorn, author of The Writer's Handbook, spending time in Bobst Library, and living in Greenwich Village, where (this was the 1970s) she rented a carriage house on Charles Street for $222 per month.

"Living in New York was a great education," says Kare. "I worked at a bronze casting foundry, spent lots of time at museums and galleries and Pearl Paint, walked all over the place, and got standing room opera tickets. I've been in California – which I love – since I graduated, but always say it's great to live in New York, even for a few years."

After completing her studies in 1978, Kare took at job at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. She never dreamed she would become one of the nation's leading computer illustrators, but in 1982, fate beckoned when a high school friend called for help on a graphic design project. Andy Hertzfeld was a software engineer at Apple Computer, and he needed icons to instruct users on how to navigate the new Macintosh Computer. Kare designed the original type fonts as well as the directional icons that are now so familiar. This was the beginning of a distinguished and unanticipated career in interface graphic design.

Today, Kare's most exciting projects include designing daily virtual gifts for Facebook, one of the the most famous social-networking platforms, as well as contributing design work to Chumby Industries, a startup media-player company in San Diego.

With an unusual career path and years of experience under her belt, Kare's advice to students is simple: take any job in an interesting company, and then demonstrate your own value.


Former Dean Mary Brabeck says, "We are incredibly proud to see Kare's successful problem solving on our computers every day, and grateful for her help in navigating our computer systems!"