Since the inception of TGD, we’ve had an A-list of people we really want to interview. The list is chock-full of inspiring creatives from all walks of life and across a variety of disciplines, many being common household names. These seemingly insurmountable interviews push us forward and challenge us to constantly think beyond today. At the top of our list, of course, was Steve Jobs.
Steve was a huge inspiration to us, as he likely was to most of you reading this. It only seems fitting to take a break from our normal publishing schedule to bring you this special TGD tribute article in honor of Steve Jobs.
Since we live together and grieve together, we’ve asked a few friends and colleagues to share what Steve meant to them and how they have been impacted by his legacy. We’ve also sprinkled the article with some of our favorite quotes and links to media for you to check out. We hope that you will be moved into action - to get on with that thing inside of you that needs to be created or expressed. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
Dan Rubin @danrubin
I was twelve when I got my first Macintosh, though I’d used one previously at a local science center. They had a room of Macs loaded up with MacPaint and I would spend hours of my childhood playing with 1-bit shapes and patterns on those computers, printing out the results on the ImageWriter dot matrix printers sitting nearby.
A healthy addiction developed thanks to those early days of play, one of having fun at a computer screen through creativity rather than games. This addiction was fueled by a neighbor, a friend of the family who recognized that our household couldn’t afford a computer, who knew that a family homeschooling their children without a computer would be at a disadvantage within the next few years. His obsession with Apple and the Macintosh led to our family getting his Macintosh Classic when it was barely a year old and, before long, his Macintosh IIci and a copy of Aldus Pagemaker, my first real window into the world of desktop publishing and graphic design. I hadn’t yet turned 15.
Steve’s passion was infectious, even before I knew he existed. It was visible in every Apple and Macintosh user I met, starting with our neighbor and early benefactor, Bob. Steve wasn’t even with Apple at the time, yet his vision still shone through every pixel on those early screens.
I dreamed of meeting the man one day, collecting old Macs in my teens, planning to start a museum and display these wonderful creatures to the world. I still have those beautiful beige machines and I will continue to dream of meeting the man who — before I even knew who he was — first inspired me to create great things.
“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.”— Steve Jobs
Erin Kissane @kissane
In the first world, the internet is everywhere and our lives are unbounded in a hundred new ways. When we travel, we can see each other’s faces on our phones. I brush my teeth with my beloved from 3,000 miles away.
But also: The metals that animate our electronic world poison the air and water of towns we’ll never visit. The screen you’re reading on was made by humans — their hands touched the glass and plastic we touch now. Theirs are faces we don’t see.
This disparity is our inheritance, as is the determination required to bridge it. Steve Jobs was, above all else, extraordinarily empathetic at the macro level. That’s what design for everyone (yes, everyone) ultimately means. He showed us that by fusing idealism and creativity with unwavering discipline, we can make the world better — and that against all common sense, empathy can be the most pragmatic strategy there is.
Now he’s gone and our work is clear: to turn devices shaped by empathy into tools for nourishing it; to make visible the true cost of our choices; to extend the possibilities he gave us to the people who need them most. He proved that it can be done, that we can do this. So we will.
“We’re taking from this giant pool constantly and the most ecstatic thing in the whole world is to actually put something back into that pool.”— Steve Jobs (addressing the Academy of Achievement in 19821)
Allen Tan @tealtan
Many people remember when they were first struck by an Apple product, but I remember first being struck by the way Steve Jobs spoke. He meant what he said. When Steve lit up about his work, it was infectious in the same way that we share our friends’ excitement over someone they met or something they made. It was belief. I first believed in Apple because the words of Steve Jobs had gravity, conviction, and integrity.
Sometimes we tell to others what we think are necessary little white lies. We might say, “Nice to meet you,” or, “I’m doing great!” Sometimes we also tell those lies about our work. “It’s good enough,” and, “I actually meant to do that,” are the quickest ways to ruin good work.
To refuse to do that — to let the work stand naked — is to reveal its merit. If we can’t be proud of it, it needs to be better. So, in the spirit of Jobs, let us speak truthfully, and in doing so, make our work better.
“You’ve got to find what you love… Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.”— Steve Jobs (2005 Stanford Commencement Address)
Mandy Brown @aworkinglibrary
Jobs taught us all so much: an obsessive commitment to the user; design that is as beautiful as it is functional; a manner of embracing constraints with verve instead of reluctance. But my favorite stories of Jobs are the ones where he tells someone off; where he exhibits a tyrannical belief in his path and vows to see it through, whatever the obstacle. That singular, unwavering vision is what we fall in love with when we hold one of his products in our hands. Unlikelihood and stubbornness beget a beautiful form.
So if there’s one thing I take from Jobs, it’s that you gotta have balls. You have to believe in what you’re doing, even if no one else does. You have to accept that doing new things is inherently terrifying, and then choose to do them anyway. Which doesn’t mean you don’t feel fear, but that you don’t avoid it. Lean full into it instead of turning away. And then, tell anyone who says you’re crazy to fuck off.
Garrett Murray @garrettmurray
Steve Jobs had an unflinching ability to both envision amazing products and to make them a reality. People often complained that he was too harsh or rude when giving feedback, but, at some point, Steve decided to turn off the filter inside of his head that forced him to be polite above being useful. His feedback was often short and direct, but rarely wrong. It takes guts to trust your instincts the way Steve did and, as it turns out, his instincts were genius.
Fifty-six is too young for anyone to die, but in Steve’s case, the universe was flat-out robbed. This was a man who worked until the day he died. Imagine what other amazing things he could have done with another 20 years.
Everything I have and everything I do is based, in some way, on Steve’s work. I never got to meet Steve Jobs. I never shook his hand. I never got to have one of those infamous, awkward elevator moments with him, but I wish I had.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something… your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.”— Steve Jobs (2005 Stanford Commencement Address)
Nathan Heleine @heynathan
We didn’t discover the world from a cradle of high design, particularly not the sleek, shiny and ever-tinier kind.
We grew up in small towns where the corn seemed taller than the houses and a tool in your pocket meant the Swiss had invaded. We grew up in big cities where the screens blinked on the sides of office towers and lurched over highways, where the things we watched were anchored in the corner of a living room or the high, bright wall of a cinema. We grew up in the in-between suburban places where legions of rank and file houses marched against an endless river of strip malls and parking lots, where “thanks for your purchase” meant you needed to load the car before “the cloud” meant it was about to rain.
For me and many of my closest friends, there was a big gap to cross between the places we were born and the places we wanted to be, between the jobs our parents had and the ones we imagined for ourselves, and most certainly between the tools we used then and these magical (yes, magical) things we play and work with today. Now our screens travel with us, adapt to us, and at their best, reflect and empower us. And even though we’d do well to turn them off or leave them home a bit more often, we can hold them in our laps and see each other.
And so: As a crisp new pair of swoosh-adorned sneakers might compel you to run a mile; as a cherry-red convertible might urge you to drive from coast to coast; as a simple pen and stamp might remind you to send a letter; as a ball might beg you to throw, a swing to jump, a song to dance...
These things you made, like nothing else, taught me the power of design and inspired me to cross that gap, to make the life I live and love today.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”— Steve Jobs (2005 Stanford Commencement Address)
Ryan Essmaker @ryanessmaker
Most of us try, but few succeed at leaving a dent in the world. Steve Jobs did. Not only did he and his team change the tech industry, but they also managed to change the music, film, and mobile phone industries significantly. His life was marked with unwavering passion for his work. He believed in what he did and worked on what he wanted to. Despite what the critics did or didn’t say, he trudged forward leaving a large wake behind him.
It’s strange to feel such emotion for someone I didn’t know personally. I’m not a very emotional guy. And yet it makes sense. The things that Steve and his team created have affected my life and career in many ways. Aside from the “products”, which really are unimportant in the big scheme of things, it is his legacy that has impacted me the most.
Steve didn’t compromise. He was passionate and chose to work on things he deemed important, even if no one else did. He was fired from Apple, yet he came back to take the company to insane heights and create the things that made him and Apple a household name. He believed in and invested in others when he saw something of value, even through the lean times (re: Pixar2). He created a culture at Apple that hadn’t been seen before in the tech world. A culture that placed the highest prominence on design, usability, and uncompromising innovation. Steve was enthusiastic about the things Apple created. So much so that all of us geeks stopped what we were working on to follow a play-by-play of each Apple Keynote. Jobs loved what he did and it was contagious.
How many other CEOs can we say these things about? How many men have managed to change one industry, let alone several? He was a heretic in all the right ways. An iconoclast who tore down old ideas and pushed the boundaries of innovation. His legacy will live on in each of us as we choose to walk down the unbeaten path and pursue the things closest to our hearts. We have big shoes to fill, but I’m confident that we will rise to the occasion.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”— Steve Jobs (2005 Stanford Commencement Address)