In the early 1980s, Susan Kare joined Apple Computer to design fonts and user interface graphics. A legend of pixel art, Kare created the look of the original Macintosh, from the Chicago typeface to the Trash Can to the Happy Mac icon. She's currently creative director at Pinterest. David Kindy profiles Kare in Smithsonian:
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Pioneering designer Susan Kare was taught by her mother how to do counted-thread embroidery, which gave her the basic knowledge she needed to create the first icons for the Apple Macintosh 35 years ago.
“It just so happened that I had small black and white grids to work with,” she says. “The process reminded me of working needlepoint, knitting patterns or mosaics. I was lucky to have had a mother who enjoyed crafts..."
Designing the icons proved to be more of a challenge (than the typefaces). Reproducing artwork on those primitive CRT surfaces, which used a bit-mapped matrix system with points of light, or pixels, to display data, was a designer’s nightmare.
However, the friend who recommended Kare for the job—-Andy Hertzfeld, then lead software architect for Macintosh-—had an idea. Since the matrix was essentially a grid, he suggested Kare get the smallest graph paper she could find. She then blocked out a 32-by-32 square and began coloring in squares to create the graphics...
After leaving Apple in 1986, Kare became creative director for Apple cofounder Steve Jobs at the short-lived NeXT, Inc., an influential computer startup that was eventually acquired by Apple. She founded her own eponymous design firm in 1989, which created graphic designs for hundreds of clients, including Autodesk, Facebook, Fossil, General Magic, IBM, Microsoft and PayPal.
Back in 2011, Sara Hendren -- a design and disability-studies researcher -- teamed up with the graffitti artist and philosophy professor Brian Glenney to redesign the International Symbol of Access. Often known as the "Wheelchair Symbol", it had been around for almost 50 years, but Glenney and Hendren thought the symbol -- a blocky, immobile figure -- was too passive.
So they designed the icon you see above, one that makes the figure much more active. Then they engaged in a street-art campaign, printing up 1,000 of the icons as transparent stickers that were pasted onto old-school Wheelchair-Symbol signs around Boston. Since you could still see the old sign through the transparent overlay, Glenney and Hendren's goal was to make passersby think about the meaning of that old symbol.
The new "Accessible Icon" -- as it's been called -- grew so famous that it's been informally adopted in locations around the world, employed by a US Department of Treasury sign, and included in MOMA's permanent collection. (The final version, above, was tweaked by graphic designer Tim Ferguson Sauder to make the icon comply with professional standards.)
As it turns out, though, people with disabilities disagree over whether the new symbol is better than the old one. Atlas Obscura has a fascinating piece outlining the various views:
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Mike Mort, who runs the blog Disabled Identity, also favors the new icon. “I don’t mind the older symbol,” he says, “but I definitely think this is a step, roll if you will, in the right direction.
The Noun Project is a collection of 17,000 icons created by Edward Boatman and Sofya Polyakov to enable "anything to be communicated visually through symbols." It began as a collection of sketchbook drawings. Mother Jones interviewed Boatman and Polyakov: Read the rest
Alan Moore, writer of V for Vendetta and enigmatic wizard of comicology, describes the relationship between the Guy Fawkes mask and Anonymous, anti-ACTA protests, and the Occupy movement. Beginning with the Moore-ish phrase, "Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire, and the adoption of the V for Vendetta mask as a multipurpose icon by the emerging global protest movements is no exception," Moore goes on to semi-seriously condemn the ugly reality of post-capitalist winner-take-all economics and explain why V for Vendetta has found such fertile soil in this decade.
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It also seems that our character's charismatic grin has provided a ready-made identity for these highly motivated protesters, one embodying resonances of anarchy, romance, and theatre that are clearly well-suited to contemporary activism, from Madrid's Indignados to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Our present financial ethos no longer even resembles conventional capitalism, which at least implies a brutal Darwinian free-for-all, however one-sided and unfair. Instead, we have a situation where the banks seem to be an untouchable monarchy beyond the reach of governmental restraint, much like the profligate court of Charles I.
Then, a depraved neglect of the poor and the "squeezed middle" led inexorably to an unanticipated reaction in the horrific form of Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War which, as it happens, was bloodily concluded in Northamptonshire.
Today's response to similar oppressions seems to be one that is intelligent, constantly evolving and considerably more humane, and yet our character's borrowed Catholic revolutionary visage and his incongruously Puritan apparel are perhaps a reminder that unjust institutions may always be haunted by volatile 17th century spectres, even if today's uprisings are fuelled more by social networks than by gunpowder.
The Guardian catches up with Alan Moore, writer of V for Vendetta and noted grumpy, uncompromising debullshitificator, and asks how he feels about the Guy Fawkes mask from his comic becoming a symbol of Anonymous and Occupy protests.
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"I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn't it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It's peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction..."
Moore first noticed the masks being worn by members of the Anonymous group, "bothering Scientologists halfway down Tottenham Court Road" in 2008. It was a demonstration by the online collective against alleged attempts to censor a YouTube video. "I could see the sense of wearing a mask when you were going up against a notoriously litigious outfit like the Church of Scientology."
But with the mask's growing popularity, Moore has come to see its appeal as about something more than identity-shielding. "It turns protests into performances. The mask is very operatic; it creates a sense of romance and drama. I mean, protesting, protest marches, they can be very demanding, very gruelling. They can be quite dismal. They're things that have to be done, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're tremendously enjoyable – whereas actually, they should be..."
"I find it comical, watching Time Warner try to walk this precarious tightrope." Through contacts in the comics industry, he explains, he has heard that boosted sales of the masks have become a troubling issue for the company.