He made things beautiful
October 9, 2011
It’s not possible to be in the world this week without encountering the many reflections on Steve Jobs’ life and death. One Twitter colleague commented that Jobs had been a significant part of his small child’s life though Toy Story, the animated film his child watched repeatedly on his father’s iPad. As a Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad user I’m a member of the self-confessed Apple generation (although I only took the belated leap about 3 years ago). What so impressed me by Jobs was his championing of beauty and aesthetic. Like them or not, it’s difficult to argue with the fact that Apple products are beautiful objects in their own right.
We have such a history of creating functional but ugly objects – Dublin has been blighted by functional architecture which replaced resplendent Georgian Houses; housing projects were thrown up in the suburbs during the 1970s and more recently small towns in rural ireland were populated by empty apartment blocks. My frustration with the ugliness and unreliability of previous electronic goods eventually made me switch to the more expensive Apple product and since then I haven’t looked back. Not only have the products done what they are supposed to have – they are simply beautiful machines to hold and to use.
Jobs famously decried being a technician or an artist – he saw himself as a leader of artists. In many respects he was a curator – he collected talented people and created the conditions in which they could create beautiful objects. Curation is as much about what is left out as it is about what is included and this is where Jobs excelled. I admire him because he made things beautiful again. He reminded us that functionality is not an end in its own right. Beauty, aesthetics, simplicity are all linked to civilization and what it means to be human. If ever there was an advocate for the arts; the requirement for beauty in our lives; the importance of civility particularly at a time of recession and uncertainty, we need look no further than Steve Jobs.
May he rest in peace.