prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Steve Jobs, Typography and the Mac

Posted by prof e on October 9, 2011

Although the passing of Steve Jobs this past week was not unexpected, it still was an emotional event for Apple fans and anyone who followed technology and media. The death of Steve Jobs attracted extensive media attention with much of the coverage focusing on his contributions over the years to the development of a computer and media empire that consistently delivered more than it promised.

To commemorate his passing I had my Media & Society class watch the 2005 commencement address that Steve Jobs delivered to the 2005 graduating class of Stanford University. The speech is only 14 minutes in length and you can see it below. There’s much to reflect on when listening to Jobs talk about his upbringing, his abbreviated college years, the twists and turns of his professional career, and his bout with cancer.

The one thing that stood out to me was the role that a class in typography, from Reed College, had on Jobs’ design of the Macintosh computer and, in many ways, the direction of Apple computer. Font selection, leading, kerning, tracking and ligatures are the concerns of a fairly obscure group of individuals, namely printers and typography geeks, yet Jobs was captivated by the ancient art of arranging letters on a page. Prior to the Apple Mac, computer type was crude and utilitarian. Function certainly won out our over form for screen fonts and printer output. But Jobs equipped the Mac with Postscript font technology and that, married with the personal laser printer, made high quality screen and print typography accessible to the masses. We take for granted font selection and high quality print output…but for that we should thank Steve Jobs and his vision for the Macintosh computer that started when he dropped in on a typography class at Reed College.

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24 Responses to “Steve Jobs, Typography and the Mac”

  1. Alexander said

    This is the element of Job’s personality that truly deserves recognition. Steve Jobs was an autodidact, like most of the creative intellects that our culture idolizes. These people are tenaciously original by nature, they do not suffer fools, and could care less about popular opinion. They’re authentic to themselves to a fault, to the point where they frustrate almost as many folks as they inspire, and they almost always create organizational structures to suit their own immediate aims, rather than follow some previously trodden career path. In other words, they never sell their soul to be a part of the mainstream. In this way, people like Jobs are thought to be something different, better than the rest of us, which is a believable lie.

    I find it intriguing that people like Steve Jobs are frequently invited to give speeches at colleges. Having never earned a college degree, and demonstrating no reliance on mere credentialism to shape his career, Jobs’ speech might otherwise be considered a threat to institutional learning. Steve Jobs was what some will call an “ideas man”, and while he likely employed many degreed professionals, he was only concerned with the quality of their ideas, not their diplomas. But thankfully for the college institution, the majority of students will reduce the ideas offered in Jobs’ speech to mere symbolism, turning him into an authority figure on how to be creative. This type of thinking will make students tremendously reliable employees, while the other geeks go on create their own worlds.

    Ironically, college enrollments will grow as a result of having these types of speakers on campus. This is more marketing wizardry to create allegiance to an alma mater which desperately wants to attach it’s brand of education to symbols like Steve Jobs, while the real message of his address is lost.

    There’s no question Apple products revolutionized consumer electronics, yet it’s paradoxical to realize that were more young people to think like Steve Jobs, or many other notable inventors, there might not even be a need for corporate branding strategies. Good ideas would easily sell themselves, and people like Jobs would not falsely be considered a breed apart.
    For now, all you’ll hear in the mainstream chatter is how we’ll never see another Steve Jobs in our lifetime, and it’s sadly true.
    .

  2. “Stay hungry, stay foolish”… a true maxim for life.

    Jobs was a complex, impetuous and demanding fellow from what I’ve read of him, but, in my experience most great men are…. Rest In Peace.

  3. Austin Morelli said

    I remember watching this video in class; it is a great inspiring speech. The way he connected his life experiences with events that the college graduates could relate too was amazing. In his speech he always had depressing moments, but somehow managed to turn it around and think positive about the situation. When he said he was kicked out from his own company. He exited Apple with class and started Pixar. Pixar is now famous for animated children movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and many more. When Jobs was not working with Apple, Apple was hanging on by a thread. The company was not successful without Jobs so they got Jobs back and he created the Ipod to get Apple back as the innovative company again. The Ipod was hugely successful and Jobs single handedly turned Apple around. Steve Jobs was a technical genius because he knew what we wanted before we knew. Jobs will be remembered as a pioneer into the digital age and a great man. Rest in Peace.

  4. Carl said

    I’m not much of an Apple user, but Steve Jobs was a great visionary and a hard working man. It’s pretty amazing that he found inspiration from something many might overlook as just a simple typography class. It’s what gave him that motivation to start the company and get it running from a small business into the success it is today. Inspiration is funny like that, it’s different for everyone depending on where they look for it.

  5. Steve Jobs was killed by a PC. Who ever would have thought that this visionary would pass so early? He revolutionized the tech world at a young age with creative type fonts and introduced an aesthetically pleasing interface to new-age technology. Even though he did not complete college, he used his innovative talents to create Pixar and Apple, two widely popular and successful enterprises. I am an avid Apple consumer because I love how I can stay in fashion technically, and stay virus-free. * coughs * An Apple, or two, or three, does keep the doctor away! Alright, enough with the puns. Steve Jobs proved that higher education is not what is most important in life, but self-education and personal, mental nurturing can make miniscule and silly ideas blossom into deliciously tech-savvy apples. * laughs * Okay, I will stop.
    I was sad to hear that Jobs’ time with this ever-growing and expanding world had gone so fast, but I have no doubt that his memory will live on forever in the Apple consumers of this age and beyond, in our history books. I look forward to the next innovation that is birthed by Apple and to feeling the intense pull for “#1” between Apple, Amazon, and other viciously competitive tech companies.

    (In case you did not catch on, PC is Pancreatic Cancer.)

  6. George Scheaffer said

    Even though Steve Jobs never graduated college, it’s good to know that he at least took something from it and applied it to his life. Steve Job’s great success does convey that you really should go to college, because from such a little thing he became so very successful. After stating that he never graduated it was astounding that he was even allowed to speak to a graduating class at such a highly regarded college, but the message and lessons that he gave them were no less meaningful than the words of any other speaker. If anything, Jobs’ words tell much more.

  7. Stacy said

    Personally, I am not much of an apple fan at all but Steve Jobs journey in life is very inspiration. His story shows people that if you put your mind to something you can achieve whatever you want. To me it seems like a college degree is a must have thing in the society we live in now but knowing that Steve Jobs was sucessful without one proves a point that as long as you try your best and reach for your goals you can achieve them. Also his journey shows people how short life really is and that you need to take advantage of every moment you have on his earth.

  8. taelor huddleston said

    steve jobs is truely an inspiration. to think he started this billion dollar company in a garage. he has inpacted media in a huge way. when we first watched his speech in class it made me see how short life can really be. right after we had watched this in mass comm i went to english and we watched this speech again. watching it a second time opened my eyes to the dreams you can achieve if you put your mind to it. although he did not complete college he was one of the most succesful men in todays society. what he created will live on, rest in peace.

  9. M. Williamson said

    It is very evident that Steve Jobs was a very goal oriented individual, always trying to improve things and perfect things. He more than likely provided plenty of inspiration for many young and even older people to dream big and strive to bring them to life. Its also great to see that the smallest thing can make a huge impact.

  10. Jason Cowan said

    “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 seconday.” – Steve Jobs.
    We watched this in class. A few days before, following his death I found this quote from this speech. It is amazing to me. This was the attitude that is most likely the reason for the success with all Apple products. While watching this speech at the Stanford Commencement, I could not help but think to myself that this is a man who has seen death, and was given a second chance. By the way he discribed the inevitability of death, I could not help but to notice that he was not afraid of the concept any longer. Perhaps this mentality was the reason for the success his company has had. He followed his heart and intuition, made significant contributions in this technological field during his lifetime and will be forever remembered as one of the greatest innovators in the history of Man Kind. Steve Jobs was able to conquer a fear of death, which is not an easy thing to do for anyone. It is amazing, the things human kind can accomplish when they are worry free, as Steve Jobs was.

  11. Ralph Gramajo said

    Starting Apple in his garage to expanding it nation wide is what Steve Jobs made possible. A simple man with brilliant ideas is what kept his company multiple steps beyond the competition. From Mac Computers to iPhones he just continued to know what the people wanted, and how he was going to make it happen. I still remember when the iPod came out, how happy i was to finally set aside my good old “Walk-Man” with the big headphones, for this small sleek iPod nano i received on Christmas. To now, waiting for Christmas so my parents can buy me the iPhone 4S. Thing is pretty cool and i’m due for an upgrade anyways. Steve Jobs will be missed.

  12. Andrew DeBerry said

    Steve Jobs was by far one of the most important people when it comes to the technology advancement in our society for a variety of reasons. Even at a young age Jobs had an interest in computers and wanted to make a mark on society, which he accomplished rapidly as he became older. His creation proved that passion is the number one secret when it comes to creating a product that stands out from the rest. Passionate people make passionate things, and though the odds were against Apple numerous times, the company never lost its vision, which lead the highest quality products in existence. Though many business leaders are very goal oriented and highly successful Steve Jobs had a different attribute that made him unique, the ability to have faith in himself. In every business there are times when profits are low, and some goals are not achievable, however if you have faith in yourself and never give up the odds will never define you. After this sad death i began to ponder what will happen to apple now that their visionary is no longer in existence. I feel that they are far too advanced to collapse anytime soon, however once time begins to pass, and a new economic situation unfolds i wonder if apple will slowly become less popular, and a new visionary will arise and create an even better product. It seems that in reality as time passes the most successful companies will not succeed if they cant adjust to the new age, and anxious to see if the new ceo of Apple will have what it takes to survive in an ever changing market. One things for sure, you can never take back history, and can never forget all the great things Steve Jobs has done for our society.

  13. Justin Haddan said

    This speech is truly an inspiration. Steve Jobs life its self is an inspiration. The fact that he didn’t care about the normal thing to do, he did what he wanted to and it worked out for him. More people need to be able to do that. It is all so cool how the littlest thing at the time could be huge in the future. The topography class is a great example of that.

  14. Mike Marino said

    Steve Jobs speech was great and inspirational and that class that was graduating who was there and heard it heard a pice of history. Everyone look’s at what he did such as create one of the most successful companies in the world and create products that we use everyday. Such as the Ipod the Ipad and the MacBooks. After watching his speech in class and remembering what he was saying and i didn’t really care about the fame and glory he had and i don’t think he did ether. What really hit me and what tugged at my ear was the fact that he started with nothing and came out on top. I was more interested in how he got to where he was now instead of what he had done. The fact that he started in his garage with nothing and just the pure gunnies he was is amazing. Steve Jobs came up with so many great quotes on his own and i believe that they were from his life experiences he had. One of his quotes that really made me think after his passing and it was “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs. Hearing that before his passing didn’t mean anything to me until he passed. Because looking at his life and reading that quote it hit me don’t do what everyone else wants you to do, do what you love and are passionate about because in the end its your life. You have to made the decision everyday wether you are going to live the life you want to live or live the life someone wants you to live. One thing will never change and that is the great thing that Steve Jobs did for this world and for the way we look at the way technology is created and most important the way we view media thought out our daily lives.

  15. courtney rae said

    i love love love apple products & i think steve was such an inspiration to our world. if he can make a billion dollar invention in his little garage then thats all the inspiration we need! it’s so sad that he passed but at least he lived a very fortunate and happy life. he’s really impacted people’s lives and everything he has created has become such a hit, all the apple products are so popular and they’re only getting more popular each and everyday. he’s now a legend and his apple products will live on!

  16. Dakota said

    This speech was great and told a lot about steve jobs that was very interesting. I didnt keep up with jobs throughout his career while i was alive but i find it very interesting that he was fired from the company that he started. At least he got the job back. Apple is a huge corporation and was started with something pretty simple. Jobs was a genius and will always be remembered for the work that he did.

  17. ashton5 said

    Steve Jobs was a revolutionary, a technician, and really a blessing to society. Can you imagine looking at the same font, whether you were reading a book, a cell phone scree, a computer screen ect?? In my Media Applications class we laugh about the silliness of typography. However, the true science behind the way our eyes and mind read a style of font is remarkble. As far as his speech, we viewed in class. It is quite the amazing lifter of spirits and showed the determination and sarcasm that was Steve Jobs.

  18. Alexandra Richardson said

    I think that the death of Steve Jobs has given more attention to apple then it ever has. He has helped our century in a tremendous way and it is going to be hard to compete with that but the way that our technology moves in todays time, it will be out dated soon to come. I personally am a huge fan of the apple products and they are a great blessing to our world! Makes things so much easier now and a click of a button or better yet at the tip of your fingers.

  19. Ian Walker said

    In regards to the ‘beauty’ Steve Jobs brought to the world of computers, I must say his ideas were groundbreaking. The idea of having black type on a white background? Apple was the first to implement it. The idea of a variety of different colors for a computer? Apple again. The concept that a computer should be beautiful, and carry not only function but also form is one that Apple delivered and firmly believes in to this day. This can all be tied back to Mr. Jobs experiencing the typography class that he did. The current design of Macs and Macbooks is a minimalistic, clean, and ‘futuristic’ style that appeals to the artistic and creative. The Apple brand has taken their ‘beautiful’ designs and made it so they appeal to a certain type of person, and therefore creating an ‘elitist’ style of marketing that has worked out very well for them. Again, this is all based off of design. So, in a way, the entire theory behind Apple’s success could be traced back to Steve Jobs’ desire for a computer to look as good as it performs.

  20. Marshall VanderPutten said

    there is no questioning Steve Jobs genius. Someone who can create so much in such small period of time is truly amazing. watching the speech was quite moving. hearing about is small up bringing and blue collar computer company out of his garage is a very motivational. Jobs truly was an inevator in every sense of the word. not only in creating great products, but in the way he went about liffe and how he was able to mesh that with his work. i also cant help but agree with alexander in the irony of Jons never graduating college and being the guest speaker at a university as prestigous as Stanford. Seems as though the university is trying to market a big name to increase enrollment, and the one who they are marketing is telling them they dont need to graduate college to be succesfull.

  21. CJ Gerber said

    I loved this speech, it was one of the most inspirational things I have seen, After seeing this I feel like I must go out and make change…and from all of the typography things stated, the cool thing is that change isnt necessarily something insanely difficult or outlandish. Differentiation is key to almost any market. This typography back then was just that. It was something different that people wanted to see, it wasnt anything outstanding or hard, it was just something simple that people would want. That is they amazing thing about apple… they are very talented at knowing the consumer. Apple finds every little thing that a consumer wants, from application to screen size. Lets all be real here, we ALL love cool fonts. Mostly as a kid, but cool fonts are awesome. We want to change our text font, or make shirt for and event with fun text, or even make a scary sign for a haunted house with KILLER font. The applications for typography on a computer are endless, and for that, STEVE JOBS, we thanks you. R.I.P.

  22. Justin Shalinsky said

    Steve Jobs did incredible work in making the first Macintosh and improved it over the years to even now. Macs now are very good and all Apple products seem to run smoother and faster than any other product out there. Jobs is truly the reason why Apple is what it is today and it is because of his dedication that we have all the products now that we often take for granted.

  23. Brandyn b said

    Steve has and always will be to me the most amazing visionary I have ever seen. One that’ can have so much ideas and goals in his head and be able to get a team to put his ideas together just blows my mind. Apple is the best I the best, when you buy an apple product you just know to only expect quality. Apple is known to give the consumers an amazing experience from just the unpacking of their product. I recently begun reading Steve jobs biography and am learning more and more about the genius of Steve. The thin that really amazes me about Steve is that we are still going to still see a lot of Steve’s products and invisions throughout the next five years. Steve still had so much planned for apple and it will live on. Steve’s next big thing he is going to revoutionize is the tv. This day is going to be coming very soon and I’m sure it will not dissipating apple fan boys. Viva la Steve.

  24. Raul de Anda said

    Steve Jobs was an amazing visionary that really had a drive for perfection. His ideas along with all of the engineers at apple created an amazing empire that produced beautifully made products that everyone kills for and really shows what manufacturing and creating your own software does. His idea of that really propelled apple into make really solid devices that are always extremely reliable (except for the glass breaking issues with iPhones) but other then that I love apple products and I have an iPhone but I can never picture myself going back to Android unless if they come out with something that is just jaw dropping that apple has not yet done or patent for future uses.

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