RIP Steve Jobs
October 7, 2011 1 Comment
A couple of years ago, my son, David, a graphic designer, finally convinced me to switch from my ageing Windows PC to an Apple iMac. For a long time I had held out, fiercely resisting David’s attempts to alter my old-fashioned ways, but he eventually wore me down. So, in September 2009, still unconvinced of the benefits of making such a radical switch, I hesitantly splashed out on a shiny new Apple iMac… and I never looked back.
Having endured countless years of problematic computing on my PC, my new iMac was like a breath of fresh air. It brought fun and efficiency back into my working life. It was intuitive, and simple, and a joy to use. It was everything that my Windows PC was not. I became a convert, (a “fan boy,” my son teases), and have since added an iPod Nano and an iPad 2 to my Apple arsenal.
So I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Steve Jobs, the mastermind and visionary behind Apple. The genius who invented and developed these revolutionary products that have unexpectedly changed, and improved, my life.
I really liked Steve Jobs, even though I only knew him from watching his contribution to Apple’s occasional Keynote Presentations online. But there was something about the man… his passion, his charisma, his vision, that made me warm to him.
And I was fascinated by the fact that he championed the lettering arts. At his 2005 commencement address at Stanford (see YouTube video below), he mentioned his love for calligraphy, and spoke about its influence on him, stating, “If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.”
In the same speech he said, “Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus, every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”
It’s heartening to know that calligraphy played a part, however small, in the creation of Steve Jobs’ Apple empire. In designing his products, he always balanced science with craft, technology with tradition. Each product was simultaneously functional and beautiful, the essential characteristics of a fine calligraphic script.
On the day after Jobs’ death, it is estimated that 8,000,000 people viewed his Stanford commencement address video online. If even a tiny fraction of those people become more curious about calligraphy through Jobs’ relationship with the craft, it may help to create renewed interest in hand-lettering. If so, a revival in calligraphy would be a fitting tribute to a man who literally changed the world with his technological vision.
Surprisingly, I only learned about Steve Jobs’ love of calligraphy in recent months. Maybe if I had been more aware of our shared passion for the craft back in 2009, I would have been more of a pushover for my son, David, in his attempts to lure me away from my Windows PC and into the world of Apple. I’m glad that he continued to chip away at me, despite my resistance.
So thank you, David, for your perseverance in persuading an old dog to learn new tricks.
And thank you, Steve Jobs, for the unbelievable magic you have brought to my life, and to the lives of so many others. The future will be a much poorer place without your vision and your inspiration.