During my winter weekends, I am reading Walter Isaacson biography Steve Jobs. Several passages have struck me. Too many to share in one blog post, I have group them together in a short series with some thoughts on each.
Regarding the creation of the Macintosh:
“Well, circles and ovals are good,” [Jobs] said, “but how about drawing rectangles with rounded corners?”
“I don’t think we really need it,” said Atkinson, who explained that it would be almost impossible to do. ”I want to keep the graphics routines lean and limit them to the primitives that truly needed to be done,” he recalled.
“Rectangles with rounded corners are everywhere!” Jobs said, jumping up and getting more intense. “Just look at this room!” He opined out the whiteboard and the tabletop and other objects with rounded corners. “And look outside there’s even more, practically everywhere you look!” He dragged Atkinson out for a walk, pointing our car windows and billboards and street signs. “Within three blocks, we found seventeen examples,” said Jobs. “I started pointing them out everywhere until he completely convinced.” (p.130)
I realized that I often ask lots of questions to my staff. Challenging them to bend straight into rounded corners resonates with me. Managing a department of adults is not that different from teaching a class of students.
At the calligraphy class he had audited at Reed, Jobs learned to love typefaces, with all their serif and sans serif variation, proportional spacing, and leading. “When we designed the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me,” he later said of that class. Because the Mac was bitmapped, ti was possible to devise an endless array of fonts, ranging from the elegant to the wacky, and render them pixel by pixel on the screen. (p. 130)
I loved typography in high school and worked for a short period on the school newspaper. My deficiency in editing, somewhat a result of dyslexic and learning challenges, made this pursuit impossible. In fact, my near inability to write by hand forced me on to a typewriter and then to the DEC PDP mini-mainframe, where I was saved by a text editor. It began my vocation in technology. I have always loved design and it has been part of my educational career stretching from complex drawn play books as a head lacrosse coach to teaching web design. My ability to write in any coherent fashion is a directly attributed to the use of a word processor and a GUI interface.
From Mike Markkula he had learned the importance of packaging and presentation. People do huge a book by its cover, so for the box of the Macintosh, Jobs chose a full-color design and kept trying to make it look better. “He got the guys to redo it fifty times,” recalled Alain Rossmann, a member of the Mac team… “It was going to be thrown in the trash as soon as the consumer opened it, but he was obsessed by how it looked.” (p. 134)
Not until I read this passage did it occur to me that I always save an Apple product box for over a year. I struggled to throw it out. At my school, faculty have been known to return a used Macintosh three years later in the original box.