How a Swedish Road Sign Inspired the MacBook Command Key

In the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs was frustrated that the Apple symbol was being overused across applications. Upset, he instructed his Design Team to start finding alternatives. It was this mandate that led to the inclusion of one of the most significant symbols on the keyboard— one users have come to so clearly associate with the MacBook.

Discovery

Susan Kare was a Graphic Designer working at Apple Computers at the time. Kare is known to have famously created some of the most iconic icons that still exist on the Apple interface today like the pail of paint, paintbrush, lasso, pencil, eraser etc. — all refined now, but essentially the same concept from when she worked there in the ‘80s.

The Story

The story doesn’t end there. What was then only thought to be a Swedish symbol, actually has a place across most Nordic countries. In Sweden, it can be found across Highways, signifying a Tourist Destination or a Site to visit.

Sweden: en sevärdhet — place worth visiting
Signs in Iceland (left) and Finland (right)

The plot thickens…

Years later Susan received a mail from someone, telling her that the sign by itself also had some meaning. It wasn’t merely abstract. The loops signified the Turrets of a castle, most likely an 11th Century Fortress in Sweden — Borgholm Castle — the ruins of the original fort built in mid-17th century Sweden. If you look at the squared shape with turrets at the corners, you can see command icon clearly reflected in the outline.

Aerial view of the Borgholm Castle, Sweden

References

“Bildstenar På Gotland.” V�lkommen till Gotland — Boende, Resa, Aktiviteter Och Utflyktsm�l, https://www.guteinfo.com/?id=1275. Accessed 10 Nov. 2020.

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