Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and a Legacy of Design

I started writing this post over a month ago when Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.  At the time, I felt really disturbed over this news because it signaled something that many people did not want to acknowledge.  It signaled was that Steve Jobs was near the end of his life on earth.

To most people, his death will probably be a blip in the news feed and by next week we will go back to talking about Greek debt or something.  But to me, I found a kinship in the work that Steve Jobs did and how he saw the universe.  In a world where so many leaders seem to be following a broken compass, I felt reassured that somebody at the top gets it.  And not only do they get it, they want to share it with everyone else.  This thought gave me comfort.

As I read the many articles and editorials that are flooding the news stream right now, I feel a little scared.  Probably more scared than I feel about the economy or terrorists and I know that sounds horrible to say.  Yes, I'm sure Tim Cook and Apple will continue to churn out great products and build on the foundation that Steve Jobs created.  But somehow, I really did feel like Steve Jobs was looking out for people like me.  People who feel that the world could be a better place if we focus on just a few really important things.  Steve Jobs used Design to create a line of products that focused on improving communication, creating art, and providing entertainment.  Steve Jobs believed in Design against all odds. Although Apple's growth had always outpaced industry standards, his focus was never corporate profits.  His focus was on changing the world and making it better.  And even though his success is undeniable, it is funny how many business minds dismiss it as a 'one-off' phenomenon.  Apple always seems to be cited as an example and almost dismissed as quickly.  And that is what really scares me.  It scares me that most people really don't understand how building a quality product that is well designed will translate into both success and value.

Steve Jobs was the loudest voice for the movement of Design and Quality.  Now that his voice has left us (at least physically) I worry about who will take up that stance.  I worry that it won't be taken up at all.  At least for the moment, we have enough of his wisdom to help us find the way.  I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Steve Jobs on Design and Quality:

'Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it.'

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

Rest in Peace Mr. Jobs.  We miss you already.