In 1988 I started work at a company called Wolff Olins. I brought my personal computer to work with me. It was one of the early Macintosh models (I believe our very own Stuart Jane still has two in his house). It had a small black and white screen, a cable to connect to a printer and a small floppy drive. This was pre-internet, pre-email, pre-web! The only other computers in the building were two 'communal' Apple desktop machines for designers to try out. One was monopolised by Hans Arnold, a Dutch designer and typographer who was the only person who knew how to use the new technology.
The WO board asked Hans and me to come up with a technology strategy. (I was included because I owned a Mac (!) and because I had worked with Atari computers in New York.) We toured the world looking at what other companies were doing. The two that impressed us were Landor in San Francisco and Total Design in Amsterdam. Both had started to invest in Apple computers for their people. The alternative was a 25,000 machine, a huge sum back then, called the Aesthedes, which had every 'menu' function as a mechanical control on an enormous NASA-style keyboard. This was the Porsche of computer-aided graphic design, each computer needed its own room and, believe it or not, some design companies were proudly buying it.
Our strategic recommendation was to Buy Volkswagens, not Porsches." In other words, to bet on Apple. Seems obvious now, of course.
Going back to my Macintosh, it's difficult to convey how empowering it was to be able to produce one's own A4 sheets with elegant typography. But that was the whole point of Apple. To give the power to you. The alternative IBM world of computing had kept the power at the centre and people accessed the corporate mainframe via dumb terminals. Apple was a new model of work.
Today we run our company on Apple technology. We've spent over a million pounds on Apple kit. From our servers to our iPhones to everything in between. And whenever we see another piece of technology, from SatNav in the car to inflight entertainment systems, to the Sky box at home, we wonder why it can't be as beautiful to look at and to use, like (almost) everything from Apple.
Steve Jobs said that Apple were simply trying to make products that were at the intersection of art and technology".
For v3, operating at the intersection of art and commerce, there's lots we can still learn from him. And especially from his commencement speech to Stamford graduates in 2005.
It includes brave thoughts like this:
Remembering that you are someday going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
(fantastic image by Jonathan Mak http://jmak.tumblr.com/)