Did Pablo Picasso help inspire the Mac Finder icon?

Tue, Jan 11, 2011

Apple History, News

The current Finder icon in OS X is a familiar sight for Mac users and stretches back all the way to (gasp!) OS 7.5 And while there are charming stories surrounding the history of the Mac startup sound and the flower icon on the command key, there really isn’t a whole lot of information, if any, about the history of the current Finder icon, though we know it’s a derivative of the Happy Mac icon originally designed by Susan Kare.

But thanks to some sleuthing from an Italian blog, might it be possible that the Finder icon we know and love was inspired, or perhaps lifted, from a Pablo Picasso painting called Two Characters? The history behind the design of the Finder icon has never been told, but the resemblance here is uncanny.

The painting below is currently on display at the Contemporary and Modern Art Museum of Trento and Rovereto in Italy and was created back in 1934. Note how the face on the left bears a striking similarity in color tone to the Finder icon and how each encapsulate two distinct faces. Is this merely a coincidence? Perhaps, but again, the similarities between the two are overwhelming.

Indeed, current Apple CEO Steve Jobs once famously stated, “Picasso had a saying, good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas…”

This, of course, wouldn’t be the first time the folks at Apple have looked to art for icon inspiration.

On the left here is one of the original Mac dialogue icons on the bottom. The photo on top was designed by the German artist Oskar Schlemmer in the early 20th century and represents the Bauhaus artist movement. Note the resemblance?

Below is the video of Jobs’ quip about how great artists steal.

And in the interest of bringing things full circle, a 1997 Think Different Ad featuring, you guessed it, Pablo Picasso.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve W, Indialantic FL Says:

    While I get the opinion that all these images are iconic representations of the human face, that could just be a coincidense.

  2. roby Says:

    “The history behind the design of the Finder icon has never been told, but the resemblance here is uncanny”

    Hmm… what are you smoking? They don’t look alike at all.

    Time to do more research.

  3. roby Says:

    Meant to add a smiley face to that message. Didn’t mean for it to come off as critical… the essay is a good one– can you contact some of the Mac folks or Finder folks from years back?

    I’ll bet Andy Hertzfeld or others of later years might know!

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