How Steve Jobs’ Love of Simplicity Fueled A Design Revolution

Passionate to the point of obsessive about design, Steve Jobs insisted that his computers look perfect inside and out

(James Day)
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This allowed Apple to make the iPod device itself much simpler than rival MP3 players, such as the Rio. “What made the Rio and other devices so brain dead was that they were complicated,” Jobs explained. “They had to do things like make playlists, because they weren’t integrated with the jukebox software on your computer. So by owning the iTunes software and the iPod device, that allowed us to make the computer and the device work together, and it allowed us to put the complexity in the right place.” The astronomer Johannes Kepler declared that “nature loves simplicity and unity.” So did Steve Jobs. By integrating hardware and software, he was able to achieve both.

In the year since Steve Jobs died and my biography of him was published, I was struck by two conflicting reactions that the book provoked. Some people were put off by how petulant and abrasive he could be. But others, especially younger entrepreneurs or people who had run businesses, focused on how his petulance was linked to his artistic sensibility and drive for design perfection.

I believe that the latter interpretation is closer to the truth. Jobs was, at times, very demanding, indeed a jerk. But the world is filled with demanding bosses and jerks, most of whom never amount to much. What made Jobs special, sometimes even a genius, was his fiery instinct for beauty, his talent for creating it and his conviction that it mattered. And because of that, he was able to build a company that became the greatest force for innovative design—and the best proof of its importance—in our time.


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