By Ty Hagler
The passing of Steve Jobs has left me sad and reflective. As a designer who came of age during the era that he defined more than perhaps any other executive on the world stage, it goes without saying that that he will be incredibly missed for his passionate pursuit of building exceptional products. Here is a man who boldly stated, ‘We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?” His words not only inspired the team at Apple to outperform their competition, but speak to a higher ideal of beauty and performance that has inspired us all.
His passing last week is certainly one of the most significant events in the history of design, and it would feel weird not speaking to his impact on our profession. We all have such a reverence for Steve, and his quest to make Apple and Pixar the standards in their respective industries for products that have awesome, breakthrough functionality coupled with beautiful, envelope-pushing beauty in both user interface and experience.
Steve was only 56 when he died—far too young for anyone to pass from this world—and yet he leaves behind the accomplishments of several lives well-lived. Just thinking in terms of products—he rode lustily roughshod on the old PC world with the Macintosh, and later, with his great comeback product, the iMac. Never one to rest on his laurels, he wasn’t satisfied with a mere comeback in this area. Next came the iPod, which placed the power and fun of an entire jukebox in the palm of a user’s hand! And we all know what came after the iPod—a mobile phone so daring that it continues to set the standard for the mobile communications industry at the great expense of market maker RIM.
For what would ultimately become his final feat of shattering pre-conceived notions, Steve revived an old product category—tablet computers—and made it feel disruptive with the advent of the iPad line. His immediate legacy will be the continuing shift of the market to a product category that is now finally seeing its day in both the business and consumer world.
His greatest legacy, I think, is that he not only made Apple better, but that he also made his competitors better, too. By constantly redefining consumer standards for excellence in personal computers, MP3 players, mobile phones, and now, tablets, even non-Apple users owe him a debt of gratitude. By consistently throwing down innovative gauntlets, Steve Jobs has mandated that others bring design to the forefront of what they do—or suffer the consequences of market irrelevance. The folks at Google, Samsung, IBM, and others, while suffering the brunt of his competitiveness have surely benefited because he forced them to become better versions of themselves.
I, too, take that inspiration from Steve Jobs—I hope that I’m never satisfied with my most recent accomplishment, and that I’m using that experience to inform future greatness with my customers, too. Thanks, Steve. May you rest in peace knowing that the universe has a dent with your name on it.