The original Mac icon was inspired by Matisse, not Pablo Picasso

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Yoni Heisler
February 17th, 2014
In this article: apple history, design, icon
The original Mac icon was inspired by Matisse, not Pablo Picasso

mac picasso icon matisseYou might recognize the illustration on the right as the original Mac icon, a fixture on much of the early packaging materials and manuals that came with the early Macs, not to mention the icon that greeted users on the Mac OS startup screen back in the day.

While it was long assumed that the icon was inspired by the work of Pablo Picasso -- it was even referred to as the 'Picasso Mac' for many years -- Cult of Mac recently discovered that the artist responsible for inspiring the bright, colorful squiggly lines was not Picasso, but rather French artist Henry Matisse.

Originally designed by Tom Hughes and John Casado, Cult of Mac reached out Casado who explained the impetus behind the iconic, well, icon.

I thought I could shed some light on my inspiration for the trademark for the first Mac. I was given the assignment by Tom Hughes after it was determined that Folon's version wasn't going to work for business reasons. I met with Steve and Tom and spent some time interviewing and talking to all the players.

After a few weeks, I came back to the group and made my presentation. In that presentation, I said that the inspiration for the drawing style was Matisse, whom I so admired as an artist. The idea of the graphics being 'Picasso style' was, as I remember, a journalist's description at the time of the launch. I think since no one ever ask[ed] me or Tom where the influence came from, it became fact. I never stated it publicly, only when asked during design forums.

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