Apple Blog

The secrets behind the Apple icons

Apple is well known for its obsession with detail so no one should be surprised to discover that behind many of the best designed icons from iOS and Mac OS X we find a large number of curiosities, jokes and other Easter eggs that will delight apple lovers eager to reveal every last secret hidden by their creators.

To do this, we have taken the collection made by the people of Electricpig and we have flavored it with some more curiosities of their own with which discover all the secrets behind the icons of Apple .

The secrets behind the Apple icons
The secrets behind the Apple icons

From the iPhone Maps application to details you couldn’t imagine from the iPod function or the iBooks store to the entire collection of classic application icons we work with every day on our Mac such as Mail, TextEdit or iCal. Come and see!


We start with the map of the Google Maps application and the address it gives: the number 1 of Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Apple’s headquarters in California. The address itself is a joke among programmers referring to an infinite loop in the source code represented by the circular road that runs through the campus. The icon clearly shows both the road in question and Interstate 280 crossing nearby and the pin that marks Apple’s front door.

iPod, Artists icon

Log in to the iPod feature on your iPhone or iPod touch and look for the icon to search by artist at the bottom of the screen. Apparently, the icon illustrates a generic artist singing into a microphone in the middle of a performance, but if you look closely, you might see a more familiar silhouette than you’d expect: Bono, the leader and vocalist of U2 , as well as a friend of Steve Jobs and an occasional contributor to the apple.

iBooks, Navigation icon

Look at the Navigate icon in the iBooks application. Haven’t you seen those glasses before? Try looking for a picture of Steve Jobs and you will see that it is exactly the same. It seems that the founder, CEO and passionate about fonts and elegant interfaces is also a bookworm.

Find my iPhone

In a unique visual acuity exercise, some people ensure that the dot marked on the icon of the Find My iPhone application coincides with the position of the city of New York . Strange considering that Apple’s physical and spiritual home is in Cupertino on the other side of the US, isn’t it? Maybe it’s because of the apartment Steve Jobs had in Manhattan’s iconic San Remo building (which he recently sold to Bono for $15 million), who knows.

Starbucks on iTunes

In Spain this icon sounds like Chinese to many of us (except for the one representing the well-known coffee shop chain) but in the US, Apple reached an agreement with Starbucks to launch a special version of the iTunes store only accessible from the WiFi connection of their establishments to show the songs in the music thread and be able to buy them while enjoying our Mocca Frappuccino.

But the icon also marked the first time that Apple deviated from its own User Interface Development Guide; as the people at Electricpig say, “the credo by which all iOS developers must live and die” . As you can see in the screenshot, the Starbucks icon stands out in full color over the rest of the iTunes interface elements and its strictly monochrome style.

Windows networked computers

Crowning the list of curiosities among the Mac OS X icons is undoubtedly this old monitor with the famous blue screen of death that we told you about back in 2007 when it was introduced as the way Leopard (and Snow Leopard) represents networked computers with Windows. An incisive joke that still makes me smile every now and then at the office.


The postmark “Hello from Cupertino” leaves little room for imagination, again referring to the company’s California apple headquarters. A more unknown detail is that of the gingerbread hawk often mistaken by many for the characteristic American representative eagle. The sparrowhawk, specifically the buteo jamaicensis calurus, is a species originating from the interior of Alaska that extends to Baja California.


Although Java does not belong to Apple, the application included in Mac OS X to run the Java code is maintained by Apple (for the moment) and the company’s designers let their imagination run wild with the icon. What at first glance looks like a simple coffee cup on a napkin reveals a message scribbled on it when viewed at full size. Yes, it’s Java code (you wouldn’t expect Mac OS X source code, would you?).

Typographic catalogue

Macs have long been the preferred equipment of writers, designers, and publishers, and the Typeface Catalogue includes a little joke. The letters used, A, F, and K, are not randomly chosen and correspond to the Internet acronym AFK (Away From Keyboard , Away From Keyboard), slang to indicate that you’re not in front of your computer.


The legend at the bottom of the Mac OS X dictionary cover also includes a wink to the designers . “Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet Etiam” is the beginning of a meaningless text derived from Latin that is often used as dummy text to show typography or draft a design before inserting the final text. A more extensive version of this text can be found in the Keynote icon under the Q4 2009 heading, referring to the financial results for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2009.



The TextEdit icon also has text written on it that is far from being randomly chosen. It is the monologue from Think Different’s famous Crazy Ones ad, for many, the best advertising campaign Apple has ever done. The letter is addressed to Kate , which happens to be the acronym for KDE advanced text editor (KDE’s text editor equivalent of TextEdit on Mac OS X), and is signed by John Appleseed , a name frequently used by Apple as the default contact in demos and which corresponds to a well-known tree farmer who lived between 1774 and 1845.


We ended up with an icon that until the arrival of Snow Leopard insisted on always reminding us of the same date, July 17th, and that even today it continues to use this particular day in the non-dynamic version of its icon if we look for it in the applications folder instead of going to the Dock. This is of course iCal and the date it marks is none other than its own birthday since it was originally presented on July 17th 2002 at the MacWorld Expo in New York.

Do you know any other icon with more hidden secrets? Tell us in the comments!


Similar Posts