Steve Jobs: design lessons for the home

iSad. iVery sad. Steve Jobs has impacted my life in so many important ways that it’s difficult just to focus on the lessons that are relevant to followers of Joyful Spaces. But let me try.

#1. Aesthetics matter. A lot. Steve’s inspiration for the graphical interface of the first Mac (so it could utilize a variety of typefaces, proportionally spaced) came from taking a calligraphy class in college. The letterforms were so beautiful they called out for noble thoughts. That’s what beauty does; it calls forth the best in us.

Over the years, with practice, Steve’s eye and design taste became more refined, which we see in the increasing elegance of  Apple’s products. The current unibody Mac laptops, iMacs, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, Airport Express are so gorgeous you have to reach out and touch one. And you want to use it because it’s so pleasing.

If you’ve been into a shop that sells handmade wood furniture like Portland’s Real Mother Goose you will see the burnished surfaces of salad bowls, boxes, tables etc. that also demand to be touched. These furnishings would lift your home to a whole new level of aesthetics (if it weren’t surrounded by so much other crap…). It makes me ponder: “What if my house burned to the ground and I had to start all over?” I’d want to start fresh with that kind of beauty.

2. Keep it simple. The less crap you have around you, the easier it is to focus, the easier it is to relax, the easier it is to be productive. But it’s not achieved overnight. Here Steve was speaking about mental clutter, but physical clutter is no different:

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

3. Details matter. Choose them consciously.  Why do you think your realtor suggests you will sell your home faster if you hire a stager? Because she knows that details can make or break how potential buyers view a home. But you don’t have to put your home on the market to appreciate the pleasure of staging your home for yourself!

If you’ve been into an Apple store, you know how magnetically attractive the place is (hence the hordes who spend time there!). It’s because Steve paid attention to every detail. From a reminiscence in the Wall Street Journal by Walt Mossberg:

“[Steve]  said there’d be many, many stores, and that the company had spent a year tweaking the layout of the stores, using a mockup at a secret location. I teased him by asking if he, personally, despite his hard duties as CEO, had approved tiny details like the translucency of the glass and the color of the wood.  He said he had, of course.”

4. Sometimes we need to be shown a better way. Our own design vision is often limited. When you’re in a rut, it can help to bring in someone from the outside who has fresh eyes and ideas. As Steve said:

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

5. Keep your eyes on the prize. What’s really important? How can you keep the focus on your most important contribution? I love what Steve said to Pepsi CEO John Scully when he was wooing him to take the CEO position at Apple:

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

If you’re ready to put some of Steve’s vision into practice in your home or workspace, give me a call at 360-314-2467.


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