He stared unblinking at Weeks. “Yes, you can do it,” he said. “Get your mind around it. You can do it.” Weeks recalls that he shook his
head in astonishment and then called the managers of Corning’s facility in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, which had been making
LCD displays, and told them to convert immediately to making Gorilla glass full-time. “We did it in under six months,” he says.
“We put our best scientists and engineers on it, and we just made it work.” As a result, every piece of glass on an iPhone or an
iPad is made in America by Corning.
When he was getting ready to ship the Macintosh in 1984, he obsessed over the colors and design of the box. Similarly, he
personally spent time designing and redesigning the jewellike boxes that cradle the iPod and the iPhone and listed himself on
the patents for them. He and Ive believed that unpacking was a ritual like theater and heralded the glory of the product. “When
you open the box of an iPhone or iPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product,” Jobs
Sometimes Jobs used the design of a machine to “impute” a signal rather than to be merely functional. For example, when he
was creating the new and playful iMac, after his return to Apple, he was shown a design by Ive that had a little recessed handle
nestled in the top. It was more semiotic than useful. This was a desktop computer. Not many people were really going to carry
it around. But Jobs and Ive realized that a lot of people were still intimidated by computers. If it had a handle, the new machine
would seem friendly, deferential, and at one’s service. The handle signaled permission to touch the iMac. The manufacturing
team was opposed to the extra cost, but Jobs simply announced, “No, we’re doing this.” He didn’t even try to explain.
Push for Perfection
During the development of almost every product he ever created, Jobs at a certain point “hit the pause button” and went back
to the drawing board because he felt it wasn’t perfect. That happened even with the movie Toy Story. After Jeff Katzenberg
and the team at Disney, which had bought the rights to the movie, pushed the Pixar team to make it edgier and darker, Jobs
and the director, John Lasseter, finally stopped production and rewrote the story to make it friendlier. When he was about to
launch Apple Stores, he and his store guru, Ron Johnson, suddenly decided to delay everything a few months so that the
stores’ layouts could be reorganized around activities and not just product categories.
The same was true for the iPhone. The initial design had the glass screen set into an aluminum case. One Monday morning
Jobs went over to see Ive. “I didn’t sleep last night,” he said, “because I realized that I just don’t love it.” Ive, to his dismay,
instantly saw that Jobs was right. “I remember feeling absolutely embarrassed that he had to make the observation,” he says.
The problem was that the iPhone should have been all about the display, but in its current design the case competed with the
display instead of getting out of the way. The whole device felt too masculine, task-driven, efficient. “Guys, you’ve killed
yourselves over this design for the last nine months, but we’re going to change it,” Jobs told Ive’s team. “We’re all going to
have to work nights and weekends, and if you want, we can hand out some guns so you can kill us now.” Instead of balking,
the team agreed. “It was one of my proudest moments at Apple,” Jobs recalled.
A similar thing happened as Jobs and Ive were finishing the iPad. At one point Jobs looked at the model and felt slightly
dissatisfied. It didn’t seem casual and friendly enough to scoop up and whisk away. They needed to signal that you could grab
it with one hand, on impulse. They decided that the bottom edge should be slightly rounded, so that a user would feel
comfortable just snatching it up rather than lifting it carefully. That meant engineering had to design the necessary connection
ports and buttons in a thin, simple lip that sloped away gently underneath. Jobs delayed the product until the change could be
Jobs’s perfectionism extended even to the parts unseen. As a young boy, he had helped his father build a fence around their
backyard, and he was told they had to use just as much care on the back of the fence as on the front. “Nobody will ever know,”
Steve said. His father replied, “But you will know.” A true craftsman uses a good piece of wood even for the back of a cabinet
against the wall, his father explained, and they should do the same for the back of the fence. It was the mark of an artist to
have such a passion for perfection.
In overseeing the Apple II and the Macintosh, Jobs applied this lesson to the circuit board
inside the machine. In both instances he sent the engineers back to make the chips line up neatly so the board would look
nice. This seemed particularly odd to the engineers of the Macintosh, because Jobs had decreed that the machine be tightly
sealed. “Nobody is going to see the PC board,” one of them protested. Jobs reacted as his father had: “I want it to be as
beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even
though nobody’s going to see it.” They were true artists, he said, and should act that way. And once the board was redesigned,
he had the engineers and other members of the Macintosh team sign their names so that they could be engraved inside the
case. “Real artists sign their work,” he said.
For example, in 2000 he
came up with the grand vision that the personal computer should become a “digital hub” for managing all of a user’s music,
videos, photos, and content, and thus got Apple into the personal-device business with the iPod and then the iPad. In 2010 he
came up with the successor strategy—the “hub” would move to the cloud—and Apple began building a huge server farm so
that all a user’s content could be uploaded and then seamlessly synced to other personal devices. But even as he was laying
out these grand visions, he was fretting over the shape and color of the screws inside the iMac.