If you haven’t already read the commencement address that Steve Jobs gave to Stanford graduates in June 2005 I strongly suggest you do read it.
I was only made aware of this address earlier today. And although I already admire the man as one of the key people that has brought me the technology I embrace the most, after reading this speech my admiration of Jobs has escalated a few quantum levels.
For example, much is rightly made of Apple’s user interfaces. In this speech, Jobs provides some insight on how this came about:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
What a wonderful way to, as Jobs describes it, connect the dots.