This week’s sCoop is dedicated to the legacy of Steve Jobs. Though most of us never knew him personally, as designers, Steve’s death has touched us all in very individual and very personal ways. Below, Cooper staff, alumni, and clients share some reflections on the impact Steve had on our industry, our careers, and our lives.
Obviously, all interaction designers are indebted to Steve Jobs, so I want to personally say: Thanks for making it a little bit easier to explain what I do. And even more importantly: Thanks for demonstrating to the rest of tech world the power of good taste, and the differentiating power of design. Let’s be frank, Apple’s success continues to be a major reason why “design” has so much currency in business these days, and I’m personally relieved that I’ve been subjected to very few conversations about “the ROI of design” since the iPhone debuted in 2007.
Of course, Steve Jobs wasn’t a designer. In tech organization terms, he was more like a superhuman product manager. I don’t mean to diminish his organizational achievement; he was a chief executive who built a powerhouse. Nevertheless, he had an uncommonly direct impact at a very low level in product development. He could blow up a schedule if he wanted to (and he did); he could blow up a product if he wanted to (and he did); he could hire the best, and get the best out of them (or fire them). To top it off, he knew a good thing when he saw it, down to the last detail.
In other execs, his behavior would be seen as micromanagement or schizophrenia, but Apple seemed to thrive on it and vibrate with the energy of a start-up. Manic, urgent, cultish. Jobs himself was perpetually restless, always aware that a company’s window of opportunity was narrow, as he said in this introduction to an ad campaign: “We’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company does. And so we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about.” Then he showed the original Think Different commercial. Wow … I mean, WOW. It all seems so easy and obvious in retrospect, but I guess that’s what they say about all the crazy ones. Here’s to Steve Jobs; only a truly Crazy One could have pulled this off.
Cooper alum Jonathan Korman
Steve Jobs (1955-2011): Titan of industry. Look at his face at 4:00
He’s not smiling for the applause. He’s smiling because he got it done.
The loss of him would have been news if he had only created the personal computer industry. Or if he had only committed to turning the Xerox Star into the Macintosh, “the first computer good enough to be worth criticizing.” Or if he had only founded the first major computer animation film studio. Or if he had only rescued Apple from the brink of disintegration. Or if he had only led the Macintosh renaissance of OS X and the iMac et cetera. Or had only rescued the music industry from their own stupidity. Or had only captained the creation of either the iPhone or the iPad. Having done all of those is hard to conceive, even knowing it to have happened. A life well lived. Let’s memorialize him by making it unexceptional that a corporation should make beautiful products that empower people and bring them joy, shall we?
I feel I owe him some thanks. Personally for some of the beautiful software experiences he oversaw and for many software experiences he made possible. As an interaction design industry we owe him for raising interaction design to the forefront of product experiences and pushing the computer industry forward at a pace it might not have initially been comfortable with. He’s also an iconic figure, coming up in design discussions with clients as a litmus test for purist, beautiful, uncompromising design. (Even sometimes unfairly absorbing the credit for Ives and others who worked with him, but still: WWSJD?)
My closest connection: Apple was a client when I worked at marchFIRST, and I was the information architect for the first mac.com launch. I made a 3D map to illustrate my design. Though I wasn’t present at the meeting where it was shared, when Jobs saw the map he interrupted the meeting to point at the map and ask, “Is that one of our guys?” Even that recognition was enough to have thrilled me as a young designer at the time. No, it wasn’t, Steve, but thanks for asking. 🙂 RIP.
I was studying “commercial art” using Rapidograph pens, Letraset type, and trees of tissue paper. I enrolled in a PC-based “computer-aided” drafting course. It took five steps to draw a line. I decided to be a chef. Then the Macintosh came out and changed everything. I’ve been in and around design ever since. The cooking still comes in handy.
Client and friend John Chaffins
A sad day Wednesday. When I was 16, my Grandmother offered to help me either purchase a car or a computer. I chose the computer, an Apple IIe. My life was forever changed by that decision. Everything that I started learning then has enabled me to travel the world, earn a living, support my family, and have so much fun in so many different ways. None of this would have been possible if not for the vision, creative genius, and perseverance of Steve Jobs. It’s hard to imagine any one person having as much impact on the way that the world works, lives, and plays that he has. Thank you, Steve, may you rest in peace.