Significance of Bitmap Icons by Susan Kare – Hyelin Kim

While embracing various realms of graphic designs, I felt that the textbook lacked in delivering significant design advancement in the history of digital technology that gifted us with the convenience of computers and smartphones. Nowadays, all the programs and technologies accompany simple icons that enable us to recognize their function at a glance. To get to this point of cognitive efficiency, Apple’s remarkable graphic designer, Susan Kare, made the greatest contribution by building the basis of iconographic designs.

Kare joined Apple Computer after she received a call from her high school friend, Andy Hertzfeld, the lead software architect for Macintosh at the time, in the early 1980s. Kare started working as the designer for Macintosh’s user interface graphics. Although Kare was inexperienced in computers at the beginning, she was able to accomplish significant achievements throughout her career in Apple.

Susan Kare, Bitmap Icons, 1980s.
Fig. 1 Susan Kare, Bitmap Icons, the 1980s.

The most renowned and appreciated works of her are “bitmap graphic” icons (fig. 1). These simple yet practical images were the core element that granted the Macintosh to be approachable for anyone with less or no experience with the computer. Not only her designs were practical, but they were also enjoyable. Now that this “user-friendly” interface allowed the computers to communicate with the users visually instead of lines of codes, the more approachable it became. Ellen Lupton of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum remarked that Kare’s icons made people feel “welcome and safe—even when the system crashed and gave [them] a drawing of a bomb,” witnessing the friendliness of Kare’s design (Kindy).

This must have been able as Kare herself loved and enjoyed the characteristics of the bitmap. She mentioned in her interview back in 2000 that the bitmap graphics reminded her of working “needlepoint, knitting patterns or mosaics” (Kindy). She described the process of her bitmap designing as “the marriage of craft and metaphor” (Lange). Like such, her main technique for coming up with the ideas was through connecting the functions with metaphorical images. From a pointing finger functioning for “Paste,” a paintbrush for “MacPaint,” and scissors for “Cut,” many of her icons were efficient and easily associable with its role.

Her love of metaphor and symbolism is also evident in her design of the “command” icon that still lives with us on the left of our space bar. She borrowed the idea from a “Swedish campground sign meaning ‘interesting feature’” (Lange).

Fig. 2 Susan Kare, Typefaces, 1983-84.
Fig. 2 Susan Kare, Typefaces, 1983-84.

Not only Kare contributed to the development of communicative icons but she also was able to give life to many of Mac’s typefaces including Geneva, Chicago, and Cario (fig. 2). She is also responsible for designing other interfaces in different companies like the spinning button used for refreshing or the pinning icon on Pinterest or the cards from Microsoft Windows Solitaire (fig. 3) and more.

Fig. 4 Susan Kare, Microsoft Window Solitaire Cards, 1990.
Fig. 3 Susan Kare, Microsoft Window Solitaire Cards, 1990.

In conclusion, Kare’s great contribution to our digital life by developing the visual communicative language that built the more convenient experiences should be acknowledged in our textbook. Her invention of icons marks historical advancement in both digital technologies and graphic designs.

 

Works Cited

Kindy, David. “How Susan Kare Designed User-Friendly Icons for the First Macintosh.” Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Institution, 9 Oct. 2019, www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-susan-kare-designed-user-friendly-icons-for-first-macintosh-180973286/.

Lange, Alexandra. “The Woman Who Gave the Macintosh a Smile.” The New Yorker, 19 Apr. 2018, www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-woman-who-gave-the-macintosh-a-smile.

Netflix Logo History – Hyelin Kim

Netflix, a subscription-based streaming platform with over 150 million worldwide users, has distinctive logo history over the recent twenty-two years. It all started in 1997 when Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph got together to build a DVD rental business.

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Fig. 1 Netflix 1st logo, 1997-2000

The very first logo Netflix had was a very generic black text in a serif font with a spiral, representing a celluloid film, dividing the words “net” and “flix.” It has a poor representation of the company as it is hard to recognize Netflix’s identity without recognizing the film reel. Although it does manifest an aspect of what the business offers, it was not enough. The logo only lasted three years until the replacement came in in 2000.

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Fig. 2 Netflix 2nd logo, 2000-2014

Unlike the first one, the second logo did perform quite a successful remark. It was eyecatching and full of bold characteristics: A clear, white, long and narrow typeface framed with black casting shadows laid on top of the notable red background. The arched bottom of the text, possibly an influence derived from the round film reel of the previous logo, paid an additional flavour to its characteristics (“The Evolution of the Netflix Logo”).

This design was successful as it remained for fourteen years; however, it had to give up its place due to the big shift in Netflix’s business model. Although they started as a disc distribution rental company, the evolution of media and emerging technologies like smartphones and tablets eventually replaced the DVD with online streaming services. Netflix quickly grasped on to the change and began to mainly offer online subscription-based streaming services that we know today. 

The revision in the logo was necessary as the typographic style and bold black outlines reminded “too much of old Hollywood posters to properly represent Netflix’s growing model of streaming TV shows, and even personally licensed Netflix series” (“Learning from Netflix’s New Logo Design”). Moreover, the growing use of smaller devices, like tablets, had to be considered since the logo had to be rendered into smaller sizes fit for smaller screens.

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Fig. 3 Netflix current logo, 2014-present

With all the aforesaid factors considered, the current logo that we know now came to the surface in 2014. The significant colour red and the arched text persisted; however, they were utilized differently. The red coloured the type laid on top of the black background to create a vivid contrast and to emanate a “premium cinematic feel” (“Symbol”). They maintained san-serif typography but in a Gothic font, which stands less narrow with higher legibility than the previous design. Removing the bold, black outlines and replacing with bold, yet balanced, san-serif font enabled a more versatile and well-defined design.

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Fig. 4 Netflix symbol, 2016-present

In 2016, Netflix stretched further and revealed another logo for the main use in a smaller-size application, such as an app icon, by bringing the initial “N” into the model. Maintaining its recognizable black and red colour palette, a drop shadow is pronounced to give out a simple 3D design in the letter (Marateck). The logo embodies a “z-axis design element,” endowing the “N” with the subtle depth. This clean yet distinct logo design has taken a critical part in representing the company on mobile devices.

The type of design approach made in the symbol for Netflix is notable. The official Netflix website says that N represents “connection and a never-ending stream of stories” (“Symbol”). Some add to that it almost reminds of a “red carpet” or a folded “ribbon that is streaming” (Marateck). This metaphorical design approach is currently prevailing in logo designs compared to the dying trends of skeuomorphism, a design concept that represents the items to “resemble their real-world counterparts” (Marateck). Now that enough time has passed for the consumers to get a profound insight into the digitals, less literal and less “hand-holding” in the design framework can be done (Marateck). This shift in consumer perception became another factor that enabled today’s Netflix logo design in the current design market.

In conclusion, the Netflix logo is an example of a successful rebranding of a company. Over the twenty-two years of period, it could reflect the company’s identity through constructing a proper and strong logo design.

 

Works Cited

“Learning from Netflix’s New Logo Design.” Nxtbook Media, 23 July 2019, www.nxtbookmedia.com/blog/learning-netflixs-new-logo-design/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2020.

Marateck, Julie. “Netflix Logo Design: The Sequel.” Medium, Theuxblog.com, 27 Jan. 2017, medium.theuxblog.com/netflix-logo-design-the-sequel-991607927b78. Accessed 13 Feb. 2020.

“Netflix Logo Design – History and Evolution.” Turbologo, 27 Aug. 2019, turbologo.com/articles/netflix-logo/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2020.

“Symbol.” Netflix Brand Site, Netflix, brand.netflix.com/en/assets/brand-symbol/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2020.

“The Evolution of the Netflix Logo.” WordPress, 7 Dec. 2016, johnuhlemanngraphics.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/the-evolution-of-the-netflix-logo/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2020.