Yesterday. A Wednesday night. I was home, watching TV. I had some friends over. One of them was using my iPad to read the latest DC comics. He’d been reading them for most of the night. All of a sudden, he looks up at me, shock written across his face. I’d assumed he had reached a cliffhanger ending. I chuckled, and asked him which comic he’d finished reading.
No. The tone of his voice was serious. He walked across the room, iPad in hand, and held it up to me. In the center of the screen was a notification from the CNN app. It’s surreal message: “Steve Jobs, aged 56, has died.”
I never met Steve Jobs. Neither had my friend. But judging by the look of shock on his face, you’d be forgiven of thinking Steve was probably a relative, or at least a close, personal friend. Across the Internet, across the world, there’s an outpouring of grief at this loss. This is a loss for mankind as a whole. This is the disappearance of a historical figure, a living legend. A man famous for his talents and abilities. A man we all thought we knew because we used the products of his mind each and every day.
We’ll all miss you Mr. Jobs. We already do.
The Tools of A Craftsman
If you can judge a man by the quality of his tools, how do you judge the quality of the man who made those tools?
Apple has become a beloved company because of its commitment to quality. They offer their wares to people who appreciate that quality, and they don’t worry about the people who don’t. Growing up, as I have, with close friends and family members in the construction trades, it’s ever-more apparent to me how close the bond is between a tradesman and his tools.
For a carpenter or a painter, a wallpaper hanger or an electrician, anyone who works with their mind and their hands, it’s the tools that allow them to take what they have in their head and make it a reality that they cherish so dearly. Ask any expert craftsman about the tools of his trade, and he’ll wax rhapsodic about their importance.
Steve gave me the tools of my trade. And the tools of some many others. Anyone who uses an Apple product to create knows exactly what I mean when I speak of the emotional bond that develops between a craftsman and the tools he uses to make his craft. For we designers and writers, programmers and film editors, photographers and artists, the products of Apple are our beloved tools. And Steve was their personification.
It only makes sense that we’d make the same emotional connection with the maker as we would with his products. And that we’d mourn the loss of that connection when it’s unceremoniously severed.
The Word: “Legacy”
So much was said about the legacy of Mr. Jobs when he stepped down as CEO of Apple a little over 6 weeks ago. I suspect even more will be said now, today and tomorrow, and for quite a while into the future. People will point to the industries that Steve has changed, the products that he brought into the world. They’ll talk about the technological future that he helped to shape into a reality today. Perhaps they’ll even touch on the way he changed the movie industry. Because Steve Jobs was the principle investor and CEO of a small studio known as Pixar. Maybe you’ve heard of them.
And I’m sure every article will make a great case for all of these being examples of Jobs’ legacy. And they’re probably right. But I think if we had the opportunity to ask Steve what he thought was the best example of his legacy he’d say one word: Apple.
Not Apple, the products. Apple, the company. If Steve’s sense of taste, of aesthetic, of design, has permeated my own character, and I never even met the man, I can only imagine how it’s been infused into the people he worked with each and every day.
When Steve returned to Apple in 1997, there was no question that the company wasn’t the same one he’d left 13 years before. But the company that emerged, the one that exists today, 14 years later, is most definitely Steve’s company. It’s been crafted in his image. It’s been designed by him to execute his vision. Steve’s vision is gone now. But Apple still remains, and I truly believe its continued success will be his lasting legacy.
Apple, Inc. is Steve Jobs’ opus.
The Viral Nature of Good Taste
Someone should put together a visual history of Apple’s software. Because the UI patterns established by their various operating systems over the years have found their way into the design patterns of software in general. And that’s an impressive feat not mentioned nearly enough.
Without question, Steve Jobs had good taste. He was an auteur. His sense of design, his sense of style, it could be seen in everything he touched. But it had a unique quality: it inspired the same in others. I’m sure any designer of any medium would agree. I know it’s true for me. Jobs set the bar, especially in the field of technology, for the height of design. It’s a bar I always strive for. And I know I’m not alone.
And Now It’s Tomorrow
Despite all his talents and abilities, Steve Jobs was still just another human being. He was mortal. We all knew this day would come. Yesterday was the day Steve died. It’s now tomorrow. And life goes on. That’s the thing about life, it waits for no man. Steve knew that. He lived his life like he knew that. He was committed to doing the most good he could in the time he had.
I’d like to think that when someone we care about passes away, it causes us all to pause and reflect on our own lives. Not in a dreary or depressing way, but in a way that helps us reevaluate our priorities in life. That helps us to remember what we hold dear in our lives, what’s important to us, and reminds us to keep those things at the forefront of our lives.
It’s difficult to end a piece that is in many ways a conclusion from the start. It may seem odd to express gratitude to a person who I know won’t receive it. I wish there was a more personal, more profound way to express my gratitude though. The English language only gives me one phrase, two words. So that’s what I’ll use.
Thank you, Mr. Steve Jobs. Thank you for everything.