This week we learned of the death of Steve Jobs, the leader of Apple computers.
Many times when someone I know only through the news dies, I honestly don’t have much of a reaction. But in the case of Steve Jobs, I feel more of a real loss because I can truly say his ideas and inventions strongly affected my life.
My first computer was an Apple
I remember I was in the eighth grade when my Dad decided to buy an Apple IIc for the first family computer. Growing up in the town of Lexington, MA there were quite a lot of geeky families with parents who were engineers or scientists, parents who were professors at MIT and other top universities, and many of the high school population heading that way, too. Therefore, there were debates—even in junior high—about Apple products vs IBMs. My Dad felt that while Apple was the underdog, it was the better designed technology.
I eventually took that old Apple with me to Carleton College and used it my first year. I printed my papers out on my dot matrix printer, and saved my files on 5″ floppy disks.
This little computer got me through my BA degree and I used it at home occasionally after that when I got my first job in publishing. However, at work, I used a PC with PageMaker.
In 1994, I returned to school at The Massachusetts College of Art (MassArt) to study graphic design. Once we got into the core of our studies, I purchased a new Mac and the latest design software so that I didn’t have to spend all my hours in the computer lab. I purchased an Apple 7200. It was sluggish when I ran PhotoShop, and I definitely couldn’t run two applications simultaneously. But, it allowed me to work through the night on many occasions to learn how to become a designer.
After graduating in 1997, I moved to Chicago where I worked in a number of design studios. At work, I used to work on the first G3s. However, one employer I had was doing some computer upgrades and offered me an old 7500, so I was able to upgrade my home computer slightly.
Apple design begins to stand out
I still have this computer (in a closet) and I think I’ll always cherish it. This was a real turning point for Apple. It was when being seen with an Apple product began to take on status. I remember travelling with it, and when I took it out to go through security everyone sort of “oohed and aahed”.
From that point on, I’ve owned a large succession of more Apple computers. As a graphic designer, Apple has always been the platform that worked best for the professional Adobe design software I use and for rendering fonts. Starting as a one person shop in 2001 and now growing Visible Logic into a multi-person studio, we’ve purchased numerous iMacs and laptops. I figure I’m on my third Apple laptop and fourth desktop model that I have personally used for design work. This doesn’t even get into my iPod, iPhone, etc. or the computers for my employees.
More than just a tool: a role model of great design
Obviously, Apple computers have been a direct participant in my economic success. I could still be doing design on a drafting table with press type and an exacto blade, (and yes I did have some early jobs/internships where I did this!) but I’m really glad I’m not. I sit at an Apple computer for many, many hours every day.
But another important factor is how Apple has influenced great design and branding. Apple has always made design a central part of their product development. This means industrial design in terms of the physical look and interactive nature of their products. It means graphic design in terms of their logo and streamlined package designs. It means usability design in terms of their operating systems and their web site. And it means branding in terms of the cohesive message they present to their customers, many of whom are very strong brand evangelists.
It is extremely helpful to me, as designer working in web site design and branding, to have a role model out there for my clients to refer to. They can see the direct economic success of an investment in design and branding.
It is hard to guess how Apple will move forward without Steve Jobs. I wonder what other areas of technology he could have revolutionized if had had more time.