The Mosquito And Steve Jobs

** Author’s note: This post was written the night after Steve Jobs left Apple. As you know, he passed away less than a month later. I believe that my feelings about the future of Apple have probably changed since then. But not the thoughts on the legacy of Steve. Thanks for reading. **

The news was hard to avoid last night. The conjecture on the future of Apple without Jobs steering the ship will go on for longer than I care to pay attention.

This is the beginning of Steve Jobs’ departure. Apple will never be the same.

Most of the sentiment is that people are sad to hear the news and are taking the time to reflect on his career and his impact. However, there are a lot of folks reminding us that Apple, and the talented people there will still be making great things without Steve. As if to say, there are never any star players, it’s always a team effort.

I think that is a load of politically correct talk, and I disagree.

The influence of one person on many others is what makes change happen. Steve has influenced many tipping points. He’s taken us into the PC era and right up to the starting line of the post-PC era. Amazing.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” — Dalai Lama XIV

Most have said that Steve’s greatest achievement is Apple. I do agree, Apple will continue to be great. However, for me, his greatest achievement remains in bringing more value to design. He was a CEO who sweats the details. One who cared about the yellow gradient in the “o” of a logo that wasn’t even his.

“I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I’ll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.” — Vic Gundotra

I personally attribute much of the growth and attention in user experience and design to Apple, under the guidance of Jobs. Without it, I’m sure it would have eventually grown, but not as exponentially as it has in recent years.

“My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. So, you know, I obviously believed in listening to customers, but customers can’t tell you about the next breakthrough that’s going to happen next year that’s going to change the whole industry. So you have to listen very carefully. But then you have to go and sort of stow away—you have to go hide away with people that really understand the technology, but also really care about the customers, and dream up this next breakthrough.” — Steve Jobs

A lot of our work is in educating clients in what design can do for them. Helping them to understand that through listening to people and creating a great design, they not only can create a great product, but one that is actually meaningful to the person using it.

This is a tough problem, because we are not selling something in the package, neatly placed on the shelf. Essentially we are selling the road to get there. We are telling the client: “We’re going to take you on a journey, building the story of your product, and it will result in something great.”

From the client’s eyes, I can see why this is really a huge leap of faith.

A lot of that perception has changed through Steve Jobs over the years, being like that mosquito, making the business world notice what he was doing, and that design matters. Apple products give people (our clients) the vision of what a great product can be. One that is beautifully designed, simple to use, and powered by some sort of magic.

He also reminds me as a designer that great products don’t end at the design phase. The design phase never ends. It’s so easy to stop at the milestones set within a project, or, when it ships. This is where I think Apple really shined. They weren’t afraid to focus on making the core product fantastic, and as perfect as it could be, even though it would be limited. They were late to the game with a cell phone, but they were first to get it right.

Steve’s focus has always been on the experience, rather than the measureable specs that the technology media love to debate about. His reality distortion field has convinced many that there is something more special and desirable about an Apple product, versus a competitor’s — which in reality might have had better technical specs.

Since my first Apple IIc, I’ve been enamored by what Apple has done with products, marketing, and design. It’s been exciting to see the “one more thing” revealed each time. I appreciate what Jobs has done for Design, and fueling my passion for it.

So, for that, I thank you Mr. Jobs.