The New Republic has a most interesting cover story about Apple’s design, Bauhaus and Steve Jobs’s pursuit of perfection—and the consequences.
“The Bauhaus was over before the modern advertising industry—at least as we know it today—came of age. Gropius, Breuer, Itten, and the other Bauhaus luminaries never properly theorized the relationship between design and advertising, even if they did print a lot of stylish ads. (Things were a bit more complicated with the New Bauhaus run by Moholy-Nagy out of Chicago.) Of course, neither the Bauhaus nor Ulm shied away from commercialism—both worked very closely with industry, and Braun is an apt illustration of how fruitful such collaborations were; but it is difficult to imagine either school being as obsessed with marketing as Jobs, who, at a weekly meeting, would approve every new commercial, advertisement, and billboard. (The left-wingers and socialists at the Bauhaus would certainly have looked askance at such an emphasis on advertising, or capitalist propaganda.) Jobs’s enormous creativity extended also to the practice of marketing. He set a new tone to product launches—his well-rehearsed unveiling of the Macintosh in 1984 was reportedly inspired by his reading about the tremendous success of Star Wars on its opening day—and he made American advertising look like art. (Apple’s celebrated “1984” commercial was the first American ad to win a Grand Prix at Cannes.)
Jobs never lost an opportunity to embellish his story or to connect dots that did not exist. The Economist’s cover on the week that Jobs died introduced him as “The Magician,” but a more accurate description would have been “The Mythmaker.” While there hardly exists an interview in which Jobs did not emphasize Apple’s origins in a garage—he liked to ruminate about “the purity of the garage,” and he described his rebellious Macintosh project as “the metaphysical garage”—Apple’s other co-founder, Steve Wozniak, always maintained that the garage played a very marginal role in how the first Apple computer was built. “I built most of it in my apartment and in my office at Hewlett-Packard,” he told Rolling Stone in 1996. “I don’t know where the whole garage thing came from…. Very little work was done there.”
That a man so enraptured by purity never seemed worried that the obsession with marketing might dilute the pristine nature of his products is odd. Jobs’s most impressive achievement was to persuade the shackled masses that they could see the Platonic forms without ever leaving their caves. Marketing—with its shallowness and its insidious manipulation of the consumer—would normally be relegated to the inferior realm of appearances, but it took on a different function in Jobs’s business metaphysics: it played the gospel-like role of showing us the way to the true, natural, and pure products that have not yet been spoiled by the suffocating and tasteless ethos of faceless corporations such as IBM and Microsoft. That Jobs could launch a campaign against capitalism by using capitalism’s favorite weapon—and get away with it!—was truly remarkable.”
Read the whole story at The New Republic.
Image above: From the Fortune’s special about Steve Jobs. (See this for details)
Illustration: Tsevis Visual Design
Credit must go to Deanna Lowe @ Fortune magazine and the photographer (Corbis) of the original photo in which this mosaic is based.
Originally made in December 2007 and corrected in February 2008 to include the latest Apple products like MacBook Air, iPod nano pink etc.
Made with Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop and Apple QuickTime Pro with custom developed scripts and techniques.