Ettore Sottsass is quoted as saying, “When Charles Eames designed his chair, he was not designing a chair, but a way of sitting; that is to say he was not designing for a function, but designing a function.” The same can be said of Steve Jobs, who died at age 56 on Oct. 5, 2011. Computers, phones and music players are a necessity, and he guided the design of astonishingly beautiful examples of these products. Moreover, he did so in a way that transformed not only their use, but also their raison d’etre. He changed the way we play music while transforming the way we listen to music.
It is said that at Apple, designers are held in such high esteem that when they walk into a room, people stop talking. And that they report directly to the CEO. As we all know, this was the genius of Steve Jobs: the emphasis on design and the introduction of beauty in technology, the idea that the look and feel of a high-tech product should be just as important as its technical specifications, if not more so.
And it was a good thing. For these devices have quickly taken over our complete attention. They are often our interface with each other, with our work and the news, with leisure pursuits like games, sports and the arts. Jobs’ products have effectively replaced the stereo and the telephone, and are making serious inroads into the territories of television, the camera, the newspaper and the book (one wonders, what has it not replaced).
With such responsibilities, the thing has to look good and feel good and be designed well. Under Jobs' direction, the Apple team (headed by Jonathan Ive) has succeeded immensely. By integrating excellent design in all corners of the Apple brand (and experience), from the packaging to the manual, they surpassed all expectations (Jobs invented the expectations!). It feels good to own and use these things.
Certain people will always covet the Montblanc fountain pen, or the vintage Hasselbaad or the Sottsass’ Valentine typewriter. But for everyone else, there are the objects that comprise still just a portion of the profound legacy of Steve Jobs.
BRENT LEWIS is the Senior Specialist of Design at Artnet Auctions.