Jobs called Android a “stolen product,” but theft can be a tricky concept when talking about innovation. The iPhone didn’t emerge fully formed from Jobs’s head. Rather, it represented the culmination of incremental innovation over decades—much of which occurred outside of Cupertino.
This is a wonderful piece on the iconographer who designed the early icons for Apple. First note: Kare created a lot of these digital symbols on paper—on cheap, simple paper.
Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac’s GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn’t been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now*, she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing — each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen.
Second: she borrowed from everywhere.
Asian art history, the geeky gadgets and toys that festooned her teammates’ cubicles, and the glyphs that Depression-era hobos chalked on walls to point the way to a sympathetic household. The symbol on every Apple command key to this day — a stylized castle seen from above — was commonly used in Swedish campgrounds to denote an interesting sightseeing destination.
Ultimately it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing. I mean Picasso had a saying he said good artists copy great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.
“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”
(Footnote: I’ve never been able to verify that Picasso quote, but I know for a fact that T.S. Eliot said it: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”)
One of the first things that Steve Jobs did after taking over as Apple’s interim CEO in 1997 is to get Apple back on track with their branding. In this short presentation from ‘97, Jobs talks about branding & Apple’s core values and introduces the Think Different campaign.
[It] might be one of the best five minute explanations of good branding out there.
I wasn’t even a Mac user in ‘97 (I was all of 14) but I had a bunch of these “Think Different” posters on my wall. (I had the Miles Davis one taped to my piano.) Brilliant campaign.
Kottke makes a great point: notice how Apple shows nothing *but* the product in its current ads for the iPhone and iPad.