Five years ago, as a student at Ohio State, having saved up some part of the stipend I received from university, I decided for the first time to gift myself something special. On earlier occasions when I had interned and got any money at all, the treats were limited to books on architecture, or styling/re-bonding my hair or other such frivolities that were soon diminish in memory. But thankfully, America had beaten some sense (read materialism) into me and this time I thought about the continued value this gift was going to bring to my life. I had seen some of my friends own the Classic iPOD when in college while I had been gifted a shuffle by my father. However, Apple had not penetrated our lives and consciousness quiet in the same way then- First because I was an FOB and Windows still dominated the universe I was part of in India and second I had little knowledge of the phenomenon called Steve Jobs and was introduced to him only through his very famous Stanford commencement speech on YouTube much later by my engineering friends.
But being on an American campus, Apple and its products couldn’t be ignored for long because there the world was clearly divided much like the iPhone 4 Ad last year- either you owned a Mac or you didn’t! Of course my stipend savings wouldn’t add up for me to get a Macbook but I decided to order myself online a third generation iPod Nano. It arrived ten days later in a packaging that commanded respect, even from someone as callous a gift-opener as myself. I patiently and carefully handled the minimalist plastic case and the folds of paper that housed it. I remember marveling at the packaging, the font that read ‘Designed by Apple in California’ on the cover before I laid my eyes on the product I had actually paid for. Inside of course, was my new iPod in a gorgeous red, and on its shiny metal back engravings that I ordered – “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you have got” Only back then, I had no idea how much those words embodied the spirit of its very creator- Steven P. Jobs. For a full week, I was too afraid to take my first Apple buy out of its case (forget taking it outside the room) and carefully replaced it after updating my playlists each day. Thus was my first ‘bite’ of the Apple and much like with Adam, there was no looking back from the original sin (and the spending on the subsequent products)!
Of course five years later the world and myself find our lives changed forever by Jobs, where we demand touchscreens on everything and recognize, know and willingly pay for superlative design. Where we are able to read 4 books at a time on our way to work and where we can run miles with our music devices sticking to our skins.
As for why the plastic case of my Nano still lies on my bedside drawer five years later after I received the product (no the answer isn’t because I am lazy)? Well, I found the answer in Jobs’ biography – because of the passion, effort and hours that were expend on even the minutest details of creating something that is meant to be discarded once its function was served. Maybe that is what makes it indispensable, knowing that design-wise no compromises were made on even an inch of what you now own. As a designer, I know for a fact, how next to impossible that is to achieve. So even when I din’t know of this magical salesman and control freak designer or his story, his passion still spoke to me through a pocket-sized music player I still guard closely.
I don’t know how many of you did what I did, i.e. save the packaging on any of your Apple products or your particular reasons for loving/hating their founder. But I know I love him for showing us conclusively that a book ought to be judged by its cover!
P.S: From the 598 page long biography of Jobs by Walter Isaacson, these are the lines I am taking away – “In most people’s vocabulary, design means veneer, but to me nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers”