Steve Jobs w Macintosh (1984)
Steve Jobs w Macintosh (1984)

Today the Internet and wider world are mourning the death of Steve Jobs. The Apple founder, CEO, and Chairman was the spiritual core of Apple and the brains behind many of their most iconic and commercially-successful products.

Everyone is quick to point out his foresight, his energy, his stubbornness, and his dedication. And while most every writer will acknowledge his inclusion of design to create great products, I’m going one step further. Steve Jobs was the first business leader to demand great design in every Apple product. No debate about it.

Jobs was informally trained as a typographer and calligrapher in his late teens, and this design sensibility was carried through to his creation of the Mac, the inclusion of various typefaces, the development of the laser printers, and even the choice to make screen resolution 72 dots per inch (since there are 72 points in an inch). Without design, there would be no Apple.

Later, design played a more obvious role. The iMacs of the late 90s featured more industrial styling than any computer previously. Translucent plastic and coloured moulding were so shockingly refreshing that it piqued the imagination of the public, and basically saved Apple. Following this, the industrial design of the iPod, Powerbook, and even the desktop Mac pro influenced the design of everyday things.

Steve Jobs w original iMac (1998)
Steve Jobs w original iMac (1998)

Jobs himself wasn’t an industrial designer, and didn’t sit in a workshop bending metal, but his guidance — and demands — meant Apple was forced to think about using design to create a cohesive user experience from start to finish. Apple is still the best at doing this, and while we the geeks can pick apart certain specific features in a product or software title, we acknowledge that no other computer brand even comes close in carrying out the belief of a single unifying vision.

Jobs’s potential influence is greater than the user interface or the mouse, it’s about how everyone in business thinks deeper about their work, about how to we question the business landscape and demand excellence from start to finish. This approach to business — and design — can hopefully influence generations of designers, programmers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.

Side note: I was thinking earlier about large companies that utilise design. Names like Starbucks and Virgin come to mind. Nike and Target are perennial quick mentions. But what about supposed creative companies? I actually have no idea who is the CEO of Omnicom, Publicis, or any of the other big communication industry holding companies. I don’t know who’s running the tv channels, the fashion houses, or the music labels. Shouldn’t these leaders be the real creative leaders in our society? Why is Steve Jobs the model for design in business?