I was chosen by Steve Jobs as one of the founding members of the in-house Graphic Design Department. That meant I worked on all significant product launches, including iTunes, iPod, Safari, and the newly introduced brick-and-mortar Apple Stores. I was even a member of the naming committees for iPod and Safari. Under Steve’s unmatched ability to see into the future, the department grew from 30 people to approximately 800 today. I never went to portfolio school, but I did last for many years under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs, so that must count as a graduate degree in something.
I wrote many, many headlines for Apple during my time there, but none as noteworthy as “Rip. Mix. Burn.” It was written to announce the launch of iTunes, which was, at the time, a small but exciting piece of software that we had high hopes for. The headline went through a million iterations before we got close to the three controversial words. Due to Steve’s fondness for the line, it appeared everywhere—outdoor, print, TV, etc.—gathering loads of controversy along the way. A year later, Wired magazine featured it on the cover together with the Hindenburg crashing suggesting the “end” of the music industry. We all know how that went. In 2015 I was contacted by a student writing his PhD on innovation in digital music technology. He wanted to speak to me regarding my experience with the “Rip. Mix. Burn.” iTunes campaign. He also talked with Cary Sherman (head of the RIAA), Karlheinz Brandenburg (creator of mp3), John Chowning (creator of FM computer music), and Thomas Dolby (artist). Needless to say, after having a laugh over him grouping me with those guys and calling me an expert, I said yes.
It is amazing how much thought and work goes into designing a brand new retail store. I wrote the entire signage package for the store launch, in addition to graphic panels featured on major walls throughout the store. We built this mock store on the Apple campus so we could dress it up to see how the final product would look. This is one of our original window displays. You can see Hiroki Asai pictured on the right as a stand in before we shot the model. He was my CD at the time. Over the years he was promoted to VP of Global Marketing Communications. He was one of Steve’s secret weapons and could speak “Steve” better than most.
Due to my talent for speaking to product managers and translating their delightful nerdiness into consumer-friendly prose, I wrote a lot of professional software packaging. Every project was completely unique, and I found myself knowing enough to be “dangerous” with a lot of very complicated software.
Once upon a time, we created a teaser for the amazing new iMac. It was actually really fun because the design of the computer leant itself to a having a real personality.