A lot is going to be written on the passing of Steve Jobs in the coming days and months. The legacy that he is leaving will inspire far better writers than I to honor his passing, but I will do my best.
My first recollection of using an Apple product was at some point in the 1980s. My father was a special education administrator at a public school in Pennsylvania with an interest in these new things called “computers.” He had some students that were my age, with comparable mental capacity, but also physical disabilities of varying degrees that limited their ability to express themselves. My dad saw computers as a new way for his students to start to overcome the limits of their physical situations. He applied for state education grants and purchased Apple IIgs computers (the “gs” was short for “graphics and sound”; the system also included the first mouse) for these kids. When they arrived, we set the computer up on our dining room table for a week or so for my sister and I to explore. When it was time to take the Mac to the student’s home, we would go along to teach him or her what we had figured out. Even at that early age, I recognized the ability of good design—simple, intuitive design—to help us overcome our human challenges.
Like most families in the 1990s, we had a parade of beige PCs come through the house. As an aspiring digital artist, I bludgeoned through 8-bit illustrations in MS paint, subconsciously wanting something more. When I arrived at college in the fall of 1995 to pursue a career in graphic design, I was re-introduced to the Mac and the love affair was rekindled. As I write these words on my work-issued PC, the current roster of Apple products in my home is two iMacs, one iBook, one PowerBook, one iPad and at least a half a dozen iPods.
I’ve read a few books and many articles about Mr. Jobs, and as a designer at heart, working in an industry where design is the only true differentiator, I guess I’d like to thank him. Not only for all the cool stuff that I would probably struggle to live without, but for bringing good design to the collective consciousness. By most accounts, Steve Jobs was not a designer himself, but more a visionary and catalyst, bringing designers of diverse backgrounds (programmers, graphic designers, industrial designers and marketing people) together to create something more than they could have alone. His passion and demand amplified our cultural expectation for design. I truly believe that the success and ubiquity of Apple products has raised the bar for all other design today. People simply expect more from their architecture, print media, consumer products and the millions of other man-made objects with which we interact every day. And I think that is a very good thing. Thanks, Steve.
Image—Flickr CC: noppyfoto1