The Story of a College Drop-Out

An excerpt from Simon Garfield’s ‘Just My Type’ p.11-12 Introduction

On 12th June 2005, a fifty-year-old man stood up in front of a crowd of students at Stanford University and spoke of his campus days at a lesser institution, Reed College in Portland, Oregon. ‘Throughout the campus,’ he remembered, ‘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 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.’

At the time, the student drop-out believed that nothing he had learned would find a practical application in his life. But things changed. Ten years after college, that man, by the name of Steve Jobs, designed his first Macintosh computer, a machine that came with something unprecedented – a wide choice of fonts. As well as including familiar types such as Times New Roman and Helvetica, Jobs introduced several new designs, and had evidently taken some care in their appearance and names. They were called after cities he loved such as Chicago and Toronto. He wanted each of them to be as distinct and beautiful as the calligraphy he had encountered a decade before, and at least two of the fonts, Venice and Los Angeles, had a handwritten look to them.

It was the beginning of something – a seismic shift in our everyday relationship with letters and with type. An innovation that, within a decade or so, would place the word ‘font’ – previously a piece of technical language limited to the design and printing trade – in the vocabulary of every computer user.”

Steve Jobs was and still is a truly inspiring man. Its difficult to believe that he was a college drop-out… Or, perhaps it is quite believable. He was obviously different to his fellow students, a dreamer, a believer, creative thinker and future leader. It’s difficult to measure the legacy he has left behind. Jobs has changed the way we use technology, changed the way we interact with each other. He humanised technology and paved the way for future technological advances.

To finish, here’s a quote from, displayed this morning as a splash page to commemorate his life:

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind the company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”