Steve Jobs made beautiful typography available on personal computers. He had dropped out of university and took a course in formal writing at Reed. Reed college had at the time perhaps the best calligraphy course in the States. Robert Palladino (pictured above) was Jobs’ teacher.
Steve Jobs referred to the inflence formal handwriting had on him on a number of occasions:From an interview in 1995.
The only problem with Microsoft is that they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste, and I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way. They don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product. You say, why is that important? Proportionally spaced fonts come from type-setting and beautiful books, that’s where one gets the idea. If it weren’t for the Mac, they would never have that in their products. So I’m saddened—not by Microsoft’s success, I have no problem with their success. They’ve earned their success, for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products. Their products have no spirit to them. They have no spirit of enlightenment about them. They are very pedestrian. And the sad part is that a lot of customers don’t have a lot of that spirit either. But the way we’re gonna ratchet up our species is to take the best and spread it around everybody so that everybody grows up with better things and starts to understand the subtlety of these better things. And Microsoft’s just McDonald’s.”
From another interview in 1995.
The things I’m most proud about at Apple is where the technical and the humanistic came together … The Macintosh basically revolutionized publishing and printing. The typographic artistry coupled with the technical understanding and excellence to implement that electronically — those two things came together and empowered people to use the computer without having to understand arcane computer commands. It was the combination of those two things that I’m the most proud of.
Stanford Address 12 June 2005
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 sans 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 10 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, it’s 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 backward 10 years later.
Photography credit: Reed College’s CentennialReunions 2011.