Old school cool: A picture is worth a thousand icons

This is a phenomenal image from our collective history. This is Susan Kare, designer of the original Mac icons (and so much more) in her office, back in the early days of Macintosh.

There’s a lot of detail here. Check the Mac on the shelf with the color Mac logo. What model is that?

And zoom in (tap the image for a higher rez version) on that piece of graph paper taped above the computer. Is that some kind of icon code? An ASCII table?

Check out the toys on the shelf, the books. It’s all such a moment in time.

UPDATE: Some cool feedback from some folks who lived this history.

First things first, the photo originated in Cabel Sasser’s Twitter feed (thanks for the heads up, Cabel!), as seen here:

Read down Cabel’s post for replies from Susan Kare herself, along with Chris Espinosa and lots of other folks. Some great reading.

And, as a bonus, here are some pics I took of Susan Kare’s original design notebook when it was on display at the Museum of Modern Art a few years back.



  • ChuckO

    It’s amazing how much skinnier everyone was back then. The ubiquity of soda and “coffee” (really coffee flavored high fructose corn syrup for a lot of people) is the problem I suspect.

    • Bloodshot

      Come visit the Bay Area, most everyone is still in shape around here, especially those in their 20s. I grew up and have lived here for almost 40 years and that really hasn’t changed.

  • sezmesez

    Amazing photo – so cool!

    The detail I love the most is the newspaper clipping of the 1983-84 Texaco Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast schedule. I can just picture her jamming away to Don Giovanni as she was designing icons pixel by pixel.

    • Maritza

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    • Amanda

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    • Lexie

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  • Gromit1704

    I reckon it’s an SE25. The first Mac I had was the SE30, it could also be one of those.

    • john doofus

      There is no such thing as an SE25. It’s definitely not an SE/30, which had horizontal lines across the front and a platinum case.

      My guess is that it’s a preproduction original Mac, maybe with a sticker on the front.

  • Mike H

    I think that’s just an original Mac, sitting on a wood block. The photo’s composition – shot in close quarters, most likely with a wide angle lens, which might add a little distortion at the edges – makes it look like a different beast. The elevation of the Mac means we’re getting a good look under its chin.

    • The usual Apple logo has a dark background, which might be a trick of the camera, might mean preproduction, or might mean she doodled in the logo with a pen.

      I guess that’s not helpful. 🙂

      It’s definitely no later than the 512ke, though, since the Plus removed the recess and (I think) are all labeled Macintosh Plus.

      For a while, I thought this might be a 5.25 drive, but I’m now pretty sure it’s a 3.5 and I was just tricked somehow. That would have been an interesting find.

  • Mo

    Design hero.