Steve Jobs, who has died aged 56, was at the heart of a revolution that turned the creative industries upside down. After Apple, our world was never the same again
When I first started at Creative Review, in the mid-90s, we used to hammer out our stories on typewriters. The deputy editor would mark up these ‘galleys’ with typesetting instructions and, every evening, a man would come up on the train from our printer in Brighton, put these sheaves of paper in a leather satchel and take them back to be set. Also in his satchel were the day’s layouts – marked up sheets of paper onto which ‘bromide’ headlines and photocopied columns would be affixed along with transparencies or flat artwork to be scanned. And then came the Mac.
No doubt every one of our readers of a similar vintage – be they designers, art directors, filmmakers, photographers, illustrators or writers – can look back and reflect on their own Apple-driven upheaval not just in how they work but also what they work on. But no matter how old you may be, Steve Jobs will have changed the life of every one of our readers, even those who profess to hate Apple and all it stands for.
Following the advent of the Mac, almost every aspect of the production of visual communications was changed for ever. Of course it wasn’t all down to Jobs: many others helped build Apple and let’s not forget the contributions of Jobs’ contemporaries at the likes of Xerox, Adobe, Aldus, Macromedia, Quark and a host of other start-ups. Crafts such as typesetting, retouching and illustration, previously the domain of highly-trained specialists, were suddenly accessible to all. On one machine, we could design a typeface, retouch an image, create an illustration, layout a poster and edit a film.
But just because we could, it didn’t necessarily mean we should. Thanks to the Mac, designers could do it all – but for no more money and with no more hours in the day. For all the enormous and undoubted benefits that the Mac and the digital revolution it symbolised brought to the creative industries, it has also resulted in the undervaluation of many of the crafts on which it relies. The Mac, the DTP Revolution, whatever you want to call it, drew back the curtain. Now anyone with a computer could set a line of type, design a logo, touch up an image. In every revolution there are winners and losers.
And yet would anyone want to go back to those pre-Mac days? Creative Review readers are, in the main, Apple people. We stuck by Apple in the dark days of the clones before Steve (and a certain Jonathan Ive) returned to lead us (by the wallet) into the sunny uplands of the iWorld. We had Macs, the suits had PCs: they symbolised the great divide. They were ‘ours’ and, despite their faults, we loved them. Before iTunes and iPods, before the phones and the pads, we embraced Apple and we never let it go.
As TBWA Chiat Day’s famous campaign had it, with an Apple Mac you could ‘Think Different’. Such innate understanding of the power of his brand is perhaps the other reason why Jobs was held in such high regard by our industry.
It has often been said that Apple is not a technology company but a design company. It redesigned the way we live and gave us the tools to do it. Its products were not just the best looking but also offered the best user experience. The interfaces, the materials, even the boxes the products came in were leagues ahead of the competition, as was the advertising.
Jobs and Apple created their own exquisitely designed universe. As a result he will be remembered not just as the man at the heart of revolutionising the creative industries but also perhaps as its ideal client: a man in charge of one of the world’s biggest companies who understood the power of what we do, invested in it and championed it.
He got it. And he got us.