Apple: What

A child's drawing of Merlin.

Drawing by Daisy Samuelson

Thinking about Design


I drafted this part deux on Apple a couple of days ago, then set it aside to edit. Now it’s a eulogy. Like everyone else, I was aware of Steve Jobs’ grave illness. But wandering through a local MacExpo last week, an experience that gave rise to the thoughts below, my mind was on Apple not him. What a perfect example of what Jobs did perfectly. 

Let’s shake off the worn-out market-speak of “brand.” For me (and most), Apple is a place. It’s not its products. It’s a live-work-play space those products shape into place. It opens creative space, yes. But it’s not empty potential (from what I read, neither is what we call “outer space.”) No, this is place. This is space with character. More important, it invites character. Our character(s). It says, “Come on in. Bring your stuff. Move things around. Make this your own.”

How? We refer to Apple “products,” but that’s too dry a word. And inexact. As if what mattered about what Apple makes is that it is purchased. Oh no. What matters is what we do with what we buy. Apple’s products are tools and channels. That’s important. They’re beautiful, yes, but not merely so. In a global economy driven by eye-candy, they’re not merely decorative. At the same time, while they’re useful, we wouldn’t call them appliances. No. They are tools and channels by nature, because, as Apple has always understood, they exist to help us shape and share our experience. They exist to open/guide/enhance creativity under the working principle that all human endeavor is creative.

Apple’s tools and channels create a place where work can feel like play. Where things are (or can be) beautiful. As Jobs himself said over and over again (his name, such a marvelous pun), she who is working, she who does a job no matter how mundane, must not be seen as a drone. She’s a human spirit of flexible mind and yearning heart. And such human beings–the “common” woman, the average bear, John Q. Public–all human beings deserve to work with and through things of beauty. Toward beauty. Of all Jobs’ admirable qualities, this is the one I admire most. That he carried and found a way to concretize in things (!) a conviction that everyone deserves beauty. Beauty as elegance. Beauty as efficiency. Beauty as wit. Beauty as…

And then it is for us to define. He gave us our place. A place both decidedly Apple and decidedly ours. What a hat trick given how many of us there are, how diverse. I stand at a Mac Expo among a group of passionate strangers with whom I am suddenly kin, bound by tribal pride, a legacy of mutual experience and combative disagreement about what that all means.

The place where Apple is–is where we are. Which is everywhere. Again, what a miracle. It’s gone from the literal and metaphorical desktop to our pockets. Or, the tools have. They’ve migrated. Gone nomad. But Apple is still right where it’s always been. In the personal-global space called me. The me that’s for and about us. Our better me. Thank you, Merlin, Mr. Jobs, for tapping and coordinating the Merlins around you, stirring (pun!) their genius into a primordial soup of human creativity to make and re-make this place for me, for us.

© i.e. ideas expressed 2011

About Amanda McTigue

Author. Director. Teacher. My debut novel, GOING TO SOLACE was named one of four "Best Reads of 2012" by public radio's KRCB "Word by Word." A collection of short stories, "Convergence," is due out in 2015. A second novel, "Monkey Bottom," will follow.
This entry was posted in Artistry, Design, Expression, I:DEAS, Identity, Our digital culture, Stuff and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Apple: What

  1. amctigue says:

    Ironies can be blessings. I like to think that Jobs would have appreciated the fact that my blog post entitled Apple: Who was not about him. It was drafted before he died. Instead this one, with no Who in the title, is the one that memorializes him.

  2. Christa says:

    Enjoyed both parts of the apple article! So true. If you haven’t seen it, “The PIxar Story” documentary is fabulous. I had no idea how pivotal Steve Jobs was to Pixar and then to Disney. (It’s on netflix)

  3. Amanda McTigue says:

    Love those Netflix docs, Christa. Thanks for the heads up. I will definitely stream that.

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