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Steve Jobs: How He Made The Nerd Cool

Steve Jobs Dead

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 10/06/11 11:55 AM ET Updated: 12/06/11 05:12 AM ET

Steve Jobs died on Wednesday at the age of 56, causing a communal mourning that shook the internet. He was quite possibly the greatest inventor of our time, which, for our purposes, is as much an artistic descriptor as it is a scientific one. Jobs was an auteur, in the same way Antonioni or Godard was. His vision was not just grand, but particular, ushering in the age of the computer that doubled as design object, with Jonathan Ive by his side. In his own words, Jobs joined technology with the arts to "make our hearts sing."

But it wasn't just about making the coolest looking gadgets out there. It was about defining the way people went about their ordinary lives. Among other things, this translated into eliminating buttons because of an aesthetic objection to their look and a personal objection to their feel, highlighting the fact that form and function are as valued in products as they are in humans.

This attention to detail on a grand scale is what has elevated Apple from the technological world to shaping our cultural psyche. Obsession with technology was a pastime once relegated to the nerd class. To most, technology was merely a form of function. It meant that the telephone was just a means to an end, a device that let you talk to friends. But Jobs created new spaces for us to exist. He created objects we identified with the way we do with a purse, shoes or film. His objects, however, felt more meaningful than just material products. Why would you talk to friends on your phone when you could fiddle with the latest app? The antisocial, tech way of life soon became cool, as Jobs facilitated the space that would be filled with Facebook, Twitter and a new form of social life.

Click through our sampling of how Steve Jobs has influenced our culture and taken the nerdy to cool heights, and let us know what you think in the comments.

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Apple, more than any other company, factored us, the people, in, and extrapolated outwards. Designers obsessively anticipate the forms they see fitting into our worlds, often changing those worlds as a result. Apple's simplified design -- white and black, squares with rounded corners -- made its products as aesthetically powerful as they were functionally. The original clamshell has a home at MoMa, and as a prop in countless films and television shows who used it to telegraph a certain lifestyle. Details down to the kind of cable used to lock away MacBooks in Apple stores were Jobs' domain. The glass staircase at the Madison Avenue Apple store -- the most photographed building in New York -- holds a patent with his name on it.


"Objectified" (by the creator of "Helvetica") is a documentary about our complex relationship with objects, and how design can shape this. "Today you find only a few companies that take design seriously, as I see it," German industrial designer Dieter Rams says in the documentary. "At the moment that is an American company. It is Apple." And if a German designer says so, you know it's legit. ("Objectified" is available to stream on Netflix.)

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