This will definitely be one of those moments in my life where I will remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news of Steve Jobs’ death. As I watch the thousands upon millions of tweets roll by paying tribute to the man, the feelings really start to hit home.
The only things I know about Steve Jobs are what I’ve read in articles or see in his keynote speeches. I’ve never met the man, never even seen him in public, but he is still one of the most influential people in my life. As the thought of a world without Jobs sinks in, I’m struck with some pretty heavy emotions, strange to feel deep sadness for a person I would likely never have met in my life. It doesn’t take away from the idea that Steve Jobs has done more for me personally than my own father—that isn’t anywhere close to an exaggeration.
I was exposed to Apple computers at a very young age, my grandfather being one of the early adopters, owning more than a couple Apple IIe machines. Back then, I was lucky enough to play simple games like Pong or Zork. Even though I didn’t buy my own Apple for decades later, the mystique of the Apple was firmly ingrained in me.
In 1996, I went back to school to study graphic design, beginning my reintroduction to Apple products. Back then, the company was in a bit of turmoil. By the time I finished school and started my first job as a designer, there was a strong chance Apple might fail. Even as Jobs assumed control as CEO again, nobody thought he’d succeed in turning the company around. Even I was certain Apple was doomed and I was destined to spend the rest of my design career in front of a Windows machine (shuddering thought).
When the eMacs came out, my boss bought one. It wasn’t ideal for design work, but it made a hell of an office machine. We used it as a scan station and a print center. He managed his business on that little, aqua-marine box and life was good. Shortly after that, when I was teaching a class on design at a local tech school, I saw my first iPod first hand. One of the students had a crowd surrounding her, sharing the details of the new device with everyone in the room. Right then I had a feeling this device would change things forever, but no one could have predicted the extreme level of impact brought on by the little, white brick.
Over the last dozen years or so, largely because of Jobs and Apple, I’ve embraced the idea that design could change lives, change the world. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player on the market, nor was it the best or the cheapest, but it definitely outsold everything else because of one simple idea—Make it pretty. Jobs may have been tough to work for, may have been the worst task-master in the working world, but he produced results and both his employees and his customers loved him for it. He embraced simplicity and design over everything else and those ideals turned a drowning company into the largest tech organization on the planet. I would never want to be the tyrant Jobs was at times, but I definitely have as much idealism about design as he; if only I could be as innovative.
Design permeates my life. It’s not uncommon for me to pick apart every day items based solely on their design flaws. I’m sure my family and friends are tired of me breaking down typography errors in every logo, billboard or advertisement I come across, but I soldier on despite their chagrin because maybe, just maybe, I might be able to shed some light on why design is important in our daily lives. Maybe the future generations will realize that utilitarian objects need not be ugly.
Without Steve Jobs, I would not be this way. I would not look at everyday objects from this critical eye. I would not be enraptured with the technology products that surround both me both at work and at home. Without Steve Jobs, I might not have become a graphic artist at all. Without Steve Jobs, I would likely be some slag in a dead end job, hating every moment of my existence. I am grateful for the life that Steve Jobs’ help provide for me.
“There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.” – Barrack Obama