Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland
Random House RRP:$19.99 AUD
Steve Jobs changed the world. For better or worse? I suppose it’s open to debate. But whenever you’re listening to digital music, flicking through emails on your iPhone or watching a Pixar movie, you owe a little gratitude to this visionary businessman who thought so far outside the box he could no longer see the box!
This much-admired digital innovator started the Apple computer company in his parents’ garage and it went on to become the world’s most valuable company. The Apple story is well known to many – but how much do you know about Jobs the man?
Jessie Hartland is a US-based commercial artist and illustrator who has turned her hand to writing biographies in graphic novel form. She brings us a conventional, chronological life story for Jobs, with the less conventional inclusion of funky, black and white, comic-strip art and hand lettering, which makes a story about radical technological innovation all the more evocative.
Jobs’ story starts in 1955, when he is born to unmarried college students and quickly put up for adoption. His adopted parents raise him in the Santa Clara Valley (now known as ‘Silicon Valley’) and encourage his love of ‘tinkering’, which becomes a lifelong obsession. Despite being of unusually high intelligence, he rejects conventional education, dropping out of college after only one semester to focus on a calligraphy class. This is just one of many decisions that reveal Jobs’ fearless approach to living life by his own rules. He was a visionary and a risk taker…but not always a nice guy.
This biography doesn’t shy away from showing the flipside of genius: Jobs’ introspection, ambition and perfectionism both made and broke him at different times in his life. Likewise, behind every genius there is a trail of frustrated partners (professional and personal), parents (biological and adopted, in this case) and offspring trying to make sense of a larger than life figure whose primary focus is the-next-big-thing. I knew very little about Jobs’ personal life and enjoyed this fleshing out of the guy behind the gadgets.
I was also fascinated by the influence Jobs had over the business world; not just in terms of the technologies he created, but in the ways people model themselves on him in the hope of emulating his success. His decision to wear a ‘uniform’ for example (that is, to buy several sets of the same clothes and take dressing out of his daily thought equation) is something I’ve seen just recently touted as a productivity hack. His appreciation of Eastern philosophies and a minimalist aesthetic – in life as in work – were similarly influential on workplace design trends.
Hartland contextualizes Jobs’ evolution from basement-dwelling geek to the world’s best businessman with cut-aways to changes taking place in wider society. The graphic novel format is just perfect for hip, quirky illustrations of retro fashions and a timeline of technologies that moves from LPs, transistor radios and Liquid Paper through to the compact smart devices with which Jobs and Apple are synonymous.
Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, which makes Hartland’s biography the story of one very famous man’s whole life. As a graphic biography, this life is presented in an easy to read, engaging book that takes only an hour or two to polish off. It’s suitable for teens and up (there are just a few ‘adult themes’) and provides a jumble of warnings worth heeding and rebellions worth imitating for anyone wanting even a small taste of Jobs’ incredible success.
You can read a free sample of Steve Jobs: Insanely Great at the Random House website.