Updated for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

As we all know Apple has eye for detail. Did you ever wonder what Apple’s icons do actually mean? Some Apple icons have secret meanings

Let me take you through the wonderful world of Apple icon design and understand the secrets, the history and even the jokes that Apple icons tell us every day!

Let’s begin with Apple!

Everyone knows Apple’s logo, it’s an omnipresent icon in our world, but do you know why Apple became Apple? Steve Jobs told us exactly how it is:

I was actually a fruitarian at that point in time. I ate only fruit. Now I’m a garbage can like everyone else. And we were about three months late in filing a fictitious business name so I threatened to call the company Apple Computer unless someone suggested a more interesting name by five o’clock that day. Hoping to stimulate creativity. And it stuck. And that’s why we’re called Apple.

Steve Jobs

That’s how Apple became Apple. At MacWorld 2007 Apple Computers announced they would change their name into Apple Inc.

Everyone knows the colored Apple logo, but what is behind it? Over the years lots of interesting theories sprung to life, but guess what?

There wasn’t a whole lot of hidden meaning behind the colours. The logo predates the gay-pride flag by about a year, so that wasn’t it”and there also goes the whole Alan Turing myth! The religious myths are just that too”there’s no ˜Eve and Garden of Eden’ and ˜bite from the fruit of knowledge’ symbolism!

I didn’t have much of a formal brief on the logo assignment, other than œdon’t make it cute. But I did know the selling points of the Apple Computer, and one of the biggest was colour capability. To me, that looked like colour bars on a monitor, which became the stripes in the logo. The order of the stripes, I’m sorry to say, had no particular grand plan other than I liked them that way. And, of course, the green stripe would be at the top where the leaf is.

The bite is really about scale and the common experience of biting into an apple. It was a happy accident that ˜byte’ is a computer term.

Via Revert To Saved

Now it’s time for the Mac.

Take ‘iCal’ for example, when not running and not in the Dock, the icon says it’s the 17th of July. The reason it does so is because it was introduced on the 17th of July 2002. I’ve dug up some information and found the original press release. This is a part from it:

Apple Introduces iCal

New Software Lets Users Manage Multiple Calendars & Share Calendars Over The Internet

MACWORLD EXPO, NEW YORK”July 17, 2002”Apple® today introduced iCal, a new calendar program with built-in Internet sharing that lets business users, consumers and educators manage multiple calendars, share them over the Internet and automatically keep them updated.

The second app that has a lot of meaning in it’s icon is ‘Text Edit’. The icon reads the following text.

Dear Kate,

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fund of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things.

Take Care, John Appleseed

At first glance, we immediately recognize the text from Apple’s ‘Think Different’ ad, but when you look closer, you see two names popping up; Kate and John Appleseed. If you’ve watched some Apple ads, you’ll know that John Appleseed is often called in the ads. John, or Johnny Appleseed (September 26, 1774 “ March 18, 1845) as he was called was an American pioneer who introduced Apple trees to large parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. He became an American legend while still alive and he changed things that’s why we see him in lots of Apple ads and this icon. The question who Kate is stays unanswered.

The third icon is present within the ‘Finder’. When you have multiple Macs and computers on your network, you may notice that they pop up in the finder as ‘shared’. When it’s a Mac, the Finder nicely shows the connected Mac, but when it’s a PC, Apple has chosen to show you a big CRT display with a Blue Screen of Death on it. That’s Apple humor my friends! (This icon was present in Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) and Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6). It seems to be gone in Mac OS X Lion (10.7))

 

This is the icon of a new section in the Lion Finder called “All My Files”. When you look at the icon, which is a desk drawer filled with documents, you see it features quotes made by Apple Inc. and Steve Jobs.

The first quote we see says: In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains

Here’s the complete thing:

In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the color or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together.

Via Apple’s One-Dollar-a-Year Man, Fortune Magazine Steve Jobs Interview, January 24, 2000

The second quote we see is: A lot of companies have chosen to downsize

The complete quote goes:

A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets. We’ve been turning out more new products than ever before.

Via BW Online, August 13, 2003

 

The third one is another one from Steve Jobs saying: You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.

The complete quote is:

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

Via Steve Jobs (no original record was found)

The fourth and fifth line, I’m gonna take together. They are part of the “Think Different” campaign by Apple. in contrary to the version found in the “Text Edit” app, this version is longer and was found on posters made by Apple. The complete version goes like this: (I’ve highlighted the parts from the icon)

(line 4) Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

(line 5) How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

The sixth line is a special one, it says: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma “ which is

The text is from Steve’s commencement at Stanford University in 2005.

A part of the complete text is:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma“ which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Via Stanford University, June 12, 2005

For those of you who want to see the video, you can find it on YouTube

The seventh quote is also the last visible one and it says: Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

This is the complete quote:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. ”People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Via The Guts of a New Machine, New York Time, November 30, 2003

 

That’s it for the Mac, now let’s take a look at iOS.

Everyone knows the ‘Maps’ application on the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. But did you know that the icon actually shows 1 Infinite loop? If you wonder what 1 Infinite loop is, well it’s home to basically the entire Apple campus.

That’s it for me, if you know any icons I might have missed, please tell about them in the comments!

 

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