Reflecting on Apple’s Impact in Graphic Communications

By | August 30, 2011

There has been a lot of reflection and praise all across the Web over the past week following the announcement on August 24 that Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic CEO, resigned from his top spot at the company, likely due to his worsening health condition from a long bout with pancreatic cancer. Commentary has ranged from high praise to personal experiences with Jobs to some people saying “it’s just not that big of a deal.”

Much is being made of Jobs’ influence on Apple’s highly successful products: the original Macintosh computer, along with the seminal line of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad devices. Additionally, there is a lot of talk about Jobs’ influence on Apple’s advertising and marketing efforts, of which many memorable ads have come. One area that hasn’t gotten as much light shed on it during this time of reflection is Jobs’ influence on our own industry of graphic communications. Whatever your feeling about Steve Jobs and Apple, there is no denying that the Macintosh helped spur the desktop publishing revolution and catalyzed a transformation across the media production landscape, including print, video, and now interactive applications.

Much of this revolution can be pointed back directly to Steve Jobs’ influence on the first Macintosh PC and its successors. Jobs once noted during his graduation speech at Stanford University that when he dropped out of Reed College, he still snuck into a number of classes (even though he wasn’t enrolled), and one of those classes was calligraphy. He learned not only about calligraphy but of typography and what comprises good design aesthetic. Good design and typography were, therefore, major factors that influenced the design of software for the Macintosh, as well as the form factors that are prominent in today’s popular Apple products.

The first Macintosh PC had a variety of fonts to choose from, as well as pre-loaded software for word processing and layout. Soon after the Mac’s initial release, LaserWriter printers could be connected to the Mac, and third-party applications like Aldus PageMaker, Adobe Photoshop, and QuarkXPress were developed and initially touted Mac-only support. With creative software primarily available on the Mac platform throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Apple held a dominant presence in the graphic communications industries.

While Windows-based PCs have made inroads in these industries, especially from a pure business administration perspective, recent InfoTrends research indicates that the Mac platform is still holding strong throughout the graphic communications industries. Apple’s market share in terms of operating systems is comparatively larger in our industry than in other industries, and companies are generally very good about upgrading to the latest operating system releases. With Apple still on stable footing and creatives still attracted to Apple and Mac, it’s hard to fathom this will change anytime soon, even with Jobs’ sudden departure.

All told, Steve Jobs had a tremendous influence on the creation of the Macintosh, which in turn had a significant impact on the core creative processes and workflows we’re all now accustomed to today. You could say that he’s doing it all over again with the rise in popularity of mobile devices, with Apple at the center of that transformation. While it may be disconcerting to those thinking about from the perspective of the future of Apple, Jobs has created an innovative culture that is instilled through every aspect of the business, from product development through its retail stores. It’s definitely hard to imagine Apple without Jobs at the helm, especially considering the downward spiral it went into after he left the first time. This time, however, he has built up a strong team that he can confidently pass the torch to for at least another generation.

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