“A mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.”-–William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
On October 5, 2011, Apple Inc. announced that co-founder Steve Jobs had died. He was 56 years old. The news exploded all over the world. People were in a state of shock. The man who was able to merge artistry with technology with a touch of gusto was longer amongst us.
Steve Jobs was a patron who could appreciate artistry and knew how it could be interwoven with technology and commerce. Artistic creativity energized him, especially when it was connected to technology. Jobs was enamored with beauty and wanted to reflect it in all his products. His passion for perfection was so obsessive, that he would demand that even the parts inside the products out of the view of the consumer, had to be perfect as well. Of course his clashes with people around him were classical. He was abrasive, rude, cold, ironic, arrogant, narcissistic and a whole lot of other negative attributes. But one thing you can’t deny is that he had a taste for beauty. He used to say that “Great art stretches the taste, it doesn’t follow tastes.”
Jobs squeezed as much as he could the concepts of the minimalist movement. Minimalist is one of the most significant movements of the 20th and early 21st century. It isn’t the flashiest, or the most popular, but it arguably penetrated more fields than almost any other art or design trend.
Everything from user interfaces, to hardware designs, to car, to films and games, to the web and visual designs of today—all those fields and more were influenced by minimalism. Industrial design should be simple, yet have an expressive spirit. The Bauhaus movement emphasized rationality and functionality by employing clean lines and forms. “God is in the Details” or “Less is More” were words often said by Ludwig Mims van der Rohe and Walter Gropius of the Minimalist movement.
Minimalism has been a business strategy for Apple Inc.—and maybe their most successful business strategy of all. Minimalism built the brand that made their gadgets lust-worth to begin with.
I’m currently reading in my Amazon Kindle Fire, Steve Jobs’s authorized biography written by Walter Isaacson, dubbed Steve Jobs. Many of the passages of his book are familiar to me, since I have been following Apple since the early eighties, when I acquired my first computer. It was an Apple II-e. Since then I have been an ardent follower of Steve Jobs and his roller-coaster ride both inside and out of Apple.
I still have an Apple pin which was given to me by the manager of Xerox Panama, which was the main distributor of Apple products in Panama. He found out I was a heavy user of the Apple II-e and asked if I could provide seminars to their dealers about Apple’s hardware and software. I was appalled at the request, and immediately accepted. They paid me generously. Apple products sold in Panama were in my hands before they went out to the dealers. It was a most rewarding experience.
Below is a picture of this Apple pin which is very dear to me. I later sold my Apple to a friend of mine after it couldn’t handle the workload I had as a Comptroller at Compañía Azucarera La Estrella, S.A. (a large sugar mill in the countryside). I still have with me a spreadsheet program dubbed Multiplan, which Microsoft elaborated for Apple IIs. Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel were not even on the drawing board. During those early days of personal computers, the spreadsheet everybody used was Visicalc, conceived by Dan Bricklin and refined by Bob Frankston. Visicalc was the first spreadsheet program available for personal computers. It is often considered the application that turned the microcomputer from a hobby for computer enthusiasts into a serious business tool.
Snapshot of an Apple pin which was given to me by the manager of Xerox Panama when I was selected to provide seminars for Apple dealers in Panama. It is a cherished treasure for me. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Apple’s famous colorful logo was designed by Rob Janoff, art director working for Regis McKenna. Janoff came up with a simple apple shape in two versions, one whole and the other with a bite taken out of it. The first looked too much like a cherry so Jobs chose the one with a bite. He also picked a version that was striped in six colors, with psychedelic hues sandwiched between whole-earth green and sky blue, even though that made printing the logo significantly more expensive.
Thank you Mr. Steve Jobs for making a dent in the world and proving to us that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci and you were right. Both of you belong to the same exceptional breed—Masters of the Universe.
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