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How I Made It: Susan Kare

Icons worth a thousand . . .

May 30, 2008|Tiffany Hsu | Times Staff Writer

The gig: Designing icons for Facebook Inc.'s gift application, which lets users send virtual soap, disco balls and other gifts to online friends for $1 each. Kare lives in San Francisco and works through her company, Susan Kare Design.

Education: Bachelor's degree in art from Mount Holyoke College, an all-women school, in 1975. Doctorate in fine arts from New York University in 1978.

Launchpad: After high school friend and Apple Inc. programmer Andy Hertzfeld called her in 1982, she began designing fonts and icons for the original Macintosh computer. She came up with the Happy Mac face that appeared when you booted up the machine, and the Command symbol on Mac keyboards.

On the path: In 1986, she became the 10th employee at the now-defunct computer firm NeXT Software Inc. before becoming an independent graphic designer with clients including Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. She recently designed a line of stationery sold by the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Inspired by: Ancient mosaics, art history, folk emblems, user suggestions and the Internet, the "world's greatest clip art resource." "Now, wherever I am and whatever I'm looking at, I'm thinking whether it would be a good gift," she says.

Bestselling Facebook gifts: All things happy, including virtual hearts, animals, flowers and drinks. "Cute sells better than irony," Kare says, but the archive of sold-out gifts also includes a tequila shot with lime and Halloween candy lips.

Personal favorites: Ninjabread (a cookie shaped like a ninja) and Scrabble letters that spell the word love. She also sends cupcakes to some of her more than 300 Facebook friends.

Daydream job: The 54-year-old avid surfer and skier fantasizes about designing graphics for surfboards and skis. For now, she admires the work of San Diego designer Caleb Wilborn.

In the works: After designing the blue octopus logo for Chumby Industries, Kare is working on user-interface graphics and packaging for the company's hand-held miniature devices that display news, photos, music, weather, sports scores and more through a wireless Internet connection.

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tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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