The marriage of technology and the liberal artsPosted: October 7, 2011
I don’t want to live in an ugly world. And neither did Steve Jobs.
Design isn’t just how a product looks — it’s how it works and feels. Steve Jobs and Apple made beautiful products, and I hope Steve’s commitment to a beautiful world lives on for many years to come. Beauty is more than just skin deep, especially when it comes to technology.
Steve made products that you were proud to display in your house. Products that you enjoyed using because design was an integral part of the product itself, not just a shell over some technology. Steve insisted on creating products that were design focused, because how you use and interact with a product is just as important than the technology itself.
Many think design is just veneer. That design is just style. That it’s not substance.
Good design is the core of substance. Good design makes something easy to use. Good design makes something fun to use.
I strongly prefer using products that are easy and fun to use. Without Steve Jobs, I think we would have many of the same technologies that we have today: personal computers with graphical user interfaces, smartphones with robust Web browsers, portable MP3 players, etc. But without Steve Jobs, I’m afraid we would live in a world with just technology and no design, culture or soul. This technology would be harder and less enjoyable to use, and I fear it would of the province of technologists alone.
Too many technologists and engineers don’t value design, usability and the liberal arts. Steve Jobs cherished them. As a technologist with a liberal arts background, Steve Jobs and Apple always spoke to me because they were more than just a computer company that only cared about computer components.
Apple under Steve designed computers and music players and software and phones and more that were a pleasure to use. For years I had to use Windows machines at work. They typically got the job done like Ford Crown Victoria does for a cab driver, but I rarely enjoyed using the actual machine. It always felt like using a machine.
I would go home at night, relax and work on personal projects on my Macs. I enjoyed the experience of just using a Mac. When I was away from my Mac and my beloved OS X (I used it full time from 10.1 onward), I would get antsy to get back to my computer. It was more than just a machine, it was my sidekick.
The difference between what Apple produces and what many other technology companies produce is that they make products that allow people to do something while also enjoying what they were doing. Steve and Apple make technology centered products that speak to non-technologists. To produce a truly great computer or phone or piece of technology, everything matters: the hardware, the software, the physical design, the user interface design.
Steve understood that better than anyone else, and I think it’s precisely because he didn’t see himself as a technologist alone. Steve cherished the arts. The world would be a better place if more people did.
Steve Jobs’s legacy is the marriage of technology and liberal arts.
Thank you Steve. You helped us live in a more beautiful world.