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How The Wrong Artist Got Credit For Inspiring The Macintosh Logo

The logo of the original 1984 Macintosh is usually referred to as the Picasso logo, but in reality, it was inspired by another famous artist.

How The Wrong Artist Got Credit For Inspiring The Macintosh Logo

When the original Macintosh first shipped to customers in 1984, it came with a whimsical line drawing of a rainbow-hued Macintosh on front. Drawn with just a few sinuous strokes of a colored crayon, the logo is often referred to as the original Macintosh’s Picasso logo. But that’s a misnomer. As it turns out, the Macintosh’s Picasso logo was inspired by another artist entirely.

John Casado and Tom Hughes, who were art directors on the original Macintosh development team, designed the so-called Picasso logo. Tasked with finding an appropriately winsome and approachable logo for the Macintosh, Casado and Hughes drew inspiration from the line drawings of one of Picasso’s contemporaries: .

“The inspiration for the drawing style was Matisse, whom I so admired as an artist,” Casado tells Adam Rosen at Cult of Mac. “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 asked me or Tom where the influence came from, it became fact.”

Image: Pablo Picasso, self portrait. 1907 via Wikipedia

Intriguingly, Casado and Hughes were never actually supposed to do the Macintosh logo at all. Instead, the original task of coming up with a logo for the Mac was meant to fall to Jean-Michel Folon, a famous Belgian cartoonist and painter. Steve Jobs seems to have been quite eager to give Folon some work, having previously tasked the artist to design a little cartoon man inside every Mac, but sadly, Folon never did get a chance to design the Mac’s official logo.

Once you know that the Macintosh “Picasso” logo was inspired by Matisse, you can’t help but think it’s completely, head-thunkingly obvious. Picasso’s cubist artwork looks nothing like the Macintosh logo’s fluid, colorful draughtsmanship. Matisse as muse makes far more sense. All it took was one art-blind journalist to get it wrong to put Picasso as a signature to it forever. Funny how that goes.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.