Like most people in this world, we mourned when we heard Steve Jobs had died. He was, after all, the auto-reply answer for designers when asked “what are designers good for?” I bet some people even answered “Jobs” when asked what life was good for.
Jobs did one thing better than most. He predicted and then invented what we needed. He didn’t do it alone, nor did the rest of the Apple team, but Jobs in many ways came to symbolise the future of design and for some probably even technology.
He didn’t just invent good products though. In my eyes (and many others’), he invented a cult. Buying an Apple product meant something entirely different than buying a ‘PC’, even though most of us use applications that can be run on both. They even told us so rather straight-forwardly in their famous Hodgman/Long and Mitchell/Webb ads.
Buying an Apple was not just buying a possession. It was also buying a membership (wow! Jobs’ death just made me talk in past tense about Apple already).The owner of a Mac became an Appleist – the ‘real’ chosen ones. It was, in other words, to buy design with an add-on experience of being part of something bigger and greater than a simple functional materialist culture.
Anyway, enough about the past and its membership options for now. The world (as well as Apple) needs to look forward. Being the auto-reply of the design industry’s capabilities, Jobs’ sad death may provide an opportunity for a new generation of great design thinkers to come forward. You may intervene: “What? Already? But… Jobs? No way!”
Consider this analogy though: Jobs was the best at what he did. Buying his products made you feel part of being the best. In football, Barcelona are clearly the best in the world. Being a fan gives you the feeling of being part of their success. The difference, however, is that in football, even the smaller teams have fans. When my team, Atletico Madrid, plays Barcelona I’m pretty sure they will lose, but I always hope they will win. Two weeks before Jobs’ death Atletico Madrid lost 5-0 to Barcelona. Even so, they will play again in the spring, and once again I hope Atletico will win.
Jobs will be missed, no doubt about it. But for some, design is now more of a level playing field. Apple will surely continue to steamroll the world of design with great products, but we might also see one or two outsiders challenging them once in a while too. After all, Barcelona drew against Valencia not too long ago.