Indulge In ’90s Nostalgia With These Susan Kare Playing Cards

Computer solitaire, the O.G. time waster, has returned in analog.

Before there was Candy Crush, Bejeweled, and Angry Birds, Solitaire was the game of choice for most non-gamers. In fact, Microsoft has included the program with every Windows operating system since 1990. Designer Susan Kare—who masterminded Apple’s original icons—created the graphics used in the first iterations of the cards and now she’s lent her expertise to a tangible product from Areaware that’s based on the original digital iteration.


“It’s really fun to see the leap—familiar onscreen images taking on a ‘life’ of their own,” Kare says. “Solitaire is my favorite phone game, and my affection for it probably dates from childhood, when my mother taught me how to play with cards. I often play on long flights but have to delete it afterwards to avoid temptation.”

For the original 1990s on-screen deck, Kare used an IBM PC. “I remember using a Microsoft Paint program with 16 VGA colors and saving the .bmp files on a 5.25-inch floppy disk, which I still have,” Kare says. “This project obviously wasn’t designing a physical deck from scratch, but rather imagining how to feature familiar images in a new way with a nod to their heritage.”

Since Solitaire doesn’t use Jokers, Kare never designed them for the computer game. Now, 25 years after the game launched, Kare has finally completed a full deck. She worked with Photoshop to create a pixel image for the matching Jokers, then converted the pixel image to a vector file in Illustrator. The process was “a bit easier with all the new features than with paint programs c. 1990,” Kare says.

This isn’t the first time a company has adapted the on-screen version of Solitaire to a physical product. As Co.Design reported in 2012, designer Evan Roth made limited-edition playing cards for the Cooper-Hewitt. The Areaware version, which debuted in May 2015 as part of the brand’s Origin Stories line, goes beyond merely reprinting the graphics. For example, one corner of each card has a “pixel” cutout and they’re made from sturdy plastic to keep the edges crisp.

“I enjoyed collaborating with Lisa Smith and Blair Prietz at Areaware on the project,” Kare says. “Together we explored a lot of subtle differences in card materials and packaging to find something a little different—and just right—to incorporate the classic images in a new and physical way.”

The cards are available for $14 from


About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.