Steve Jobs: the official history

We just received a copy of Walter Isaacson’s official Steve Jobs biography, published today. So naturally we turned straight to the bits concerned with design and advertising…

We just received a copy of Walter Isaacson’s official Steve Jobs biography, published today. So naturally we turned straight to the bits concerned with design and advertising…

Jobs’ fanatical attention to detail is well known but is brought sharply into focus in a chapter dealing with Chiat/Day’s Think Different campaign for Apple. Isaacson reveals that, when presented with an early version of the script for the Crazy Ones commercial (above) by a nervous young copywriter, Jobs exploded “This is shit! It’s advertising agency shit and I hate it.”

Jobs ended up writing some of the lines himself. There was also considerable debate over the Think Different line itself and its grammatic sense. Jobs, of course, won that argument.

And then there was the voiceover. According to Isaacson, Jobs and Chiat/Day’s Lee Clow wanted Robin Williams but he wouldn’t do it. Tom Hanks was the next target with Jobs going to the extreme of asking Bill Clinton to phone the actor on his behalf after meeting the ex-President at a fund-raiser. Eventually they settled for Richard Dreyfuss but Clow then suggested Jobs to the voiceover himself. Jobs recorded a version and only plumped for the Dreyfuss one at the very last minute, hours before transmission.

Jobs was even more heavily involved in the print campaign. When told he couldn’t use a certain picture of Gandhi he wanted, Jobs phoned the editor in chief of Time personally to get him to release it. He also phoned the families of Robert Kennedy and Jim Henson to get permissions from them. And to get a specific image of John Lennon he went to New York, to a Japanese restaurant he knew ‘let Yoko Ono know I would be there’ and got her personal agreement.

There’s also quite a bit in the book about Jobs’ relationship with Jonathan Ive, of course, and his commitment to design. At one point Jobs goes so far as to say “If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it’s Jony”. Before Jobs returned to Apple, Isaacson reveals, engineers would hand over the guts of a machine and expect the designers just to put it all in a box. Under Jobs, design was integral to the entrie process of product development.

It’s remarkable just how much time Jobs and Ive apparently spent together: Isaacson says they would have lunch most days that Jobs was in the office and Jobs would routinely spend afternoons in Ive’s studio looking at models and concepts.

But it was not all sweetness and light: according to Isaacson, Ive “got upset with Jobs for taking too much credit” for some ideas. “It hurts when he takes credit for one of my designs,” Isaacson quotes Ive as saying.

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson is published by Little, Brown, £25


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