Kevin Feng

-- CS student, creative technologist

Siri (1984)

Paper + pencil, Illustrator
Fall 2019

My graphic design professor and visual arts advisor at Princeton often speaks about the work of Susan Kare, a graphic designer who designed the suite of icons for the graphical user interface (GUI) in the original 1984 Macintosh, in his classes and writngs. Kare is considered by many as a pioneer of pixel art and GUI computing.

When designing the icons, Kare first took a 32 x 32 piece of grid paper and coloured in particular squares by hand. She then used a program created by lead software architect Andy Hertzfeld to turn the sketches into bitmaps. I was really curious about this process since icon design is done so differently today. I also thought it would be interesting if I took a symbol of modern Mac computing (Siri) and used Kare's process to send it back in time to the 1980s.

I sectioned off a 32 x 32 area on a piece of graph paper and translated the Siri logo (in macOS Catalina) by colouring in some squares. It was not easy given how complex the form and colours in the logo are. I then set up a 32 x 32 grid in Illustrator and filled in squares with black corresponding to where I coloured on the graph paper. Below are the results, with the modern Siri logo as reference.

Here is a large copy printed and pinned on the wall.

The fact that it's so unrecognizable in this black-and-white form, in a way, speaks to the irreversible development in computing over the past few decades.

For fun, I saved the image as a .tif file and imported it as audio into Audacity. Here is a sample clip of what it sounds like. Interestingly, this sound slightly resembles the experimental audio data transmissions used software systems in the 1980s, as shown in this demo on TV in 1984 (the same year the Macintosh was launched!)