JULY 2017 | Graphic Design
Guess Who Made Computers The Design Tools They Are Today?
Virtually all design today involves a computer, but in the early age of digital design, most professionals perceived these new machines skeptically–they were devices meant for the military, not creatives. Today, that’s all changed due in large part to Susan Kare, Zuzana Licko, and April Greiman–three California designers who transformed the computer from an enigmatic machine into a powerful medium. Without these women’s willingness to break with established thinking, visual communication would be very different today.
When Kare joined Apple in the early ’80s, most designers balked at how rudimentary computers were since they could not replicate what designers could achieve in analog. Kare was excited by the challenge and went on to create the icons by sketching out pictograms on graph paper using a 1:1 ratio of squares to pixels. At a time when most designers were put off by the limitations of the computer and its inability to exactly replicate existing technology, Kare was inspired by the digital environment, working within limitations as if they were assets.
April Greiman, an artist and designer based in Los Angeles, was one of the first designers to use a computer as a design tool. Throughout her career, she’s embraced technology in her work–like video–since she views print as a very limiting medium. In 1986, she created what would become one of the most iconic computer-generated images, "Does It Make Sense?" She created the collage on a Mac and printed it out in segments on a dot-matrix printer. Then, she instructed the poster’s printer to assemble all of the pages, photograph the whole composition, and print the image. This work–which required a computer to create–showed the potential of the medium.
In 1984, Bay Area-based type designer Zuzana Licko launched what would become one of the most influential magazines for graphic designers: Émigré. With the help of her husband, they designed the publication on a Mac and experimented with layouts and type treatments that would be incredibly difficult to produce with analog methods. Emigre went on to become the first digital-only type foundry.