Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

Book: Lettering & Type: creating letters & designing typefaces

Lettering & Type: creating letters & designing typefaces
My edition says, “A guide to letterforms” along the bottom, which is an accurate description, rather than “A design handbook”, an erroneous description, which is written along the bottom of this edition.

This is what I was looking for when I picked Color Management.
130 pages, ★★★★

Steve Jobs studied calligraphy, which inspired the beautifully-designed fonts on the Lisa computer. In fact, his fascination with finessing fine details was manifested in all the Apple products he helped to design—including the famous “we spent six weeks deciding how round the corners should be [on the Apple IIe]” and “we spent months finding the right friction coefficient [for the MacBook Pro trackpad]”. I admire his perfectionist streak, and wanted to learn something about lettering myself.

Color Management focussed solely on color, layout and design—and was badly written. Lettering & Type, however, gets the balance of text and examples just right: on each double-spread, one page is filled with prose, while each opposing page is dedicated to graphic examples. (I even suggested this balance in my review of Color Management).

I learned that typeface design is a very fine art. Within the confines of dozens of rules of typeface aesthetics, we have to craft the individual letters, ensuring unity of stroke width and spacing throughout the typeset. We then have to adjust the kerning (spacing) of character each combination and design ligatures (conjoined letters like ӕ, fi and ij) when necessary. We have to examine the font in paragraph form, and ensure there’s an average ‘colour’ throughout the text, making final adjustments as necessary. For the most professional effects, we have to re-jiggle all the parameters in the first step whenever we make the font larger or smaller (you can see this by examining the fonts in Newsweek magazine very closely). Many large fonts look awful small, and vice versa.

Design buffs should read this, as should anyone who appreciates, or aspires to appreciate, the sheer beauty in life’s tiny, tiny details. ★★★★


Book: Decoded (Jay-Z)

Decoded is wonderfully-produced in full colour on glossy paper. The producers are playful with fonts and photoshopped images. And the paper feels great.

A self-employed salesman’s glorious transition to adulthood
317 beautifully-produced pages, ★★★★★

We all loved Steve Jobs‘ biography. Steve Jobs was a white slumdog millionaire, who followed his heart from poverty to the same superstardom that surrounds L. Ron Hubbard and Chairman Mao. Steve Jobs was the American Dream personified twice, with international reach: some Chinese youths even sold kidneys to buy an iPhone or iPad 2. If you loved the recent Steve Jobs biography, then you’ll connect with Decoded, too.

Jay-Z’s story is similar to that of Steve Jobs. Both their fathers left when they were young. Both were excellent showmen and both of them succeeded in business. Both became extremely successful in more than one field. Both were supporters of Barack Obama. Jay-Z didn’t enjoy the success on the same scale as Steve Jobs, but his starting point was also much lower (“…you could get killed for being on the wrong train at the wrong time”). Their climb was roughly equal.

“You could get killed for being on the wrong train at the wrong time” — Jay-Z

Jay-Z is a professional salesman. He started aged 13 by selling crack cocaine to supplement his single mother’s income, when a couple of characters from his inner circle introduced him to poetry to vent stress from the job. To date, none of this early-age poetry has ever been published.

Jay-Z kept (relatively, aside from selling crack cocaine) out of trouble and kept doing what he loved. He kept writing poetry. The skills he learned from selling crack cocaine (life’s too short; don’t do drugs; stay away from trouble; everyone’s trying to get their hands in your pockets) hardened him for the dog-eat-dog environment of the music industry, which he describes as “one of the most ruthless industries in America”.

“Being a recording artist on a major label is probably the most exploitative contractual agreement in America, and it’s legal.” — Jay-Z

Decoded helped me understand the journey I took in 2011. I used to crave the salaried office jobs that Jay-Z criticises (“American Dreamin'”, page 30), with the water cooler conversation (page 79) and the safety net of having a fixed salary (“Freakonomics”, page 75). Most of these jobs (especially corporate finance) are just as socially-useless, money-obsessed and unfulfilling as selling crack cocaine on the street. They bring large paycheck at the expense of huge social damage; and Jay-Z reminds us that subprime mortgages are much worse than crack cocaine. ★★★★★

Book: Steve Jobs

I am Steve Jobs!”
598 pages, ★★★★★

Everyone’s reading this in Beijing. And suddenly, everyone thinks they’re [the next] Steve Jobs. Of course, I was no exception.

We’re alike. Steve Jobs found enlightenment in India, whereas I found it in China. Neither of us work for the money, which makes us both very difficult people to manage. While Steve was extremely passionate about projects he believed would succeed (the iMac, the iPod), he was also quick to throw tantrums of “this is shit” and destroy other people’s plans (the Newton, the first cancer diagnosis). I do this too.

Steve Jobs admitted he never worked for the money, and I could relate to that. He proved this by working for no salary as the “iCEO” of Apple from 1997. This book actually inspired me to walk away from a well-paying job I didn’t enjoy, which freed up 3 more days of my week to do things that I do enjoy (such as reading books).

Steve Jobs later postulated that the year he spent running around making billion-dollar deals for other people (Pixar) made him stressed and weak, which allowed his cancer to grow. I could relate to that, too: in the last 2 years, I’ve learned that one should only ever work for oneself, i.e. in projects that one truly believes in. Working for anyone else makes you feel sick at worst, and unsatisfied at best.

I read faster in the middle (where Jobs was ousted from Apple) because the ever-increasing sums of money didn’t interest me. Fortunately, it’s the only part of the book which focusses on his financial negotiations (“$”, “billion” and “CEO” were keywords in these chapters). I slowed down significantly towards the end because I didn’t want him to die. Useful spoiler: he doesn’t die in the book.

Al Gore was missing from this book. Having read The Assault on Reason and this TIME feature article (long ago), I expected to see Al Gore more in this book than the 2-3 times that he contributed to Apple meetings. I’ve read elsewhere that Jobs and Gore were good friends outside the boardroom. They even had similar N-shaped careers (being ousted from Apple; the 2000 election respectively). The fact that Gore has massive political and economic interests at stake (Apple, Current, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and many green start-ups) means he probably doesn’t want certain things exposed. To learn more about Steve Jobs, I look forward to reading Al Gore’s next, and hopefully more revealing, biography. ★★★★★