Like you, I was deeply saddened to hear of Steve Jobs’s passing. And—I’m guessing—like you, I also learned about his death on a device he invented. I’ve been spending a great deal of time trying to sort out my feelings about this, wondering whether I should add to the conversation.
Yesterday, my conclusion was that, because I’m not specifically a technology blogger, I can just tweet something about what Jobs meant to me personally and professionally, pay my respects, and move on. Today, however, I’ve decided to at least attempt to address what his legacy has meant to me, and how I’m making sense of a post-Steve world.
Part of this decision was based on my realization that Jobs’s innovations that most affected me were not necessarily the iPod, iPhone, or iPad, but rather the Apple approach to popular typography.
Ultimately, it was Steve’s early love of typography that paved the way for Apple’s emphasis on the typographic. According to Simon Garfield, Steve discovered calligraphy after dropping out of Reed college and, with the help of designer Susan Kare, Jobs developed a number of typefaces, among them Geneva and Chicago, the latter of which you’ll recognize from the UI of the first generation iPod. It was this type development that resulted in the Macintosh being shipped with a veritable plethora of type.
Fast forward to today. OS X now ships standard with dozens of beautiful, professional typefaces not readily available on the Windows platform: Hoefler Text, Minion, Didot, and Baskerville, to name just a few. If it doesn’t completely blow your mind that fonts from Hoefler & Frere Jones are available to you seconds after you boot up your computer for the very first time, it should. Think about what had to happen in terms of licensing for that to come to fruition.
But I DigressMy wife and I were taking a walk a few minutes after I had heard the news. “I hope he got to see the keynote,” I said, turning to her. “It may not have lived up to everyone’s expectations, but I think he would’ve been proud.” My wife thought a moment and slowed her gait. “I don’t,” she said pointedly. “I hope his last days were spent thinking more about his legacy of love than his legacy of technology.”
I’ve been thinking about this comment since. The next morning at work, I shared it with my boss when I got to work and we were talking about the tributes we had read and how we were handling the news. “But his legacy as a human and the devices he invented were so enmeshed,” he retorted. I thought this was a poignant thought, and have continued to hold their voices in dialogue in my head.
Further ReadingFor some reason, it has been incredibly difficult for me to remember Steve Jobs the man, rather than Steve Jobs the CEO, the visionary, the inventor, the perfectionist. Obvi0usly, this is because I never met him or knew him. But one thing I’ve tried to keep in mind is that a man died. A man with family, a man with a wife and children, a man with friends, and a man who, given his condition, experienced a great deal of pain leading up to his passing, which I am hopeful was peaceful.
In order to recall his humanity, I’ve curated a few articles that I think do a beautiful job of momentarily decoupling Jobs from his iconic status and shedding light on his personality, his sense of humor, his humanness.
- “Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot” by John Gruber
- “For Steve” by Frank Chimero
- “In Which I Unwittingly Befoul An Otherwise Fitting Tribute to the Late, Great Mr. Jobs” by Jeffrey Zeldman
- “Steve Jobs Was a Kind Man: My Regrets About Burning Him” by Brian Lam