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Steve Jobs’ death last week was treated by some of the media like the loss of a holy man. I’m not sure poor Ann Curry of “The Today Show” can handle many more of these reports. She gets so intensely … somber.

But you do have to acknowledge the enormous influence Jobs had on our culture. Nearly every way we communicate with each other (except perhaps by face-to-face conversation) has been changed by his visit to our planet.

I have no understanding at all about computer technology – or how Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and all those other 1970s Silicon Valley boys unlocked the magic of microchips.

But retailing I get. And much as Jobs changed the way we live, he also changed the way we shop. Randall Stone of Lippincott called Apple and Jobs “this decade’s game-changer, in the way Les Wexner at Limited and Gordon Segal at Crate & Barrel once changed their sectors.” (One difference: You don’t need a Genius Bar to explain how stemware works.)

Jobs, Wexner, Segal, Sam Walton, Howard Schultz, Richard Hayne, John Mackey – they all understood their brands because they’d created them, and they knew how to express that essence in the marketplace.

And they were obsessive! Did you know that the sleep indicator light on the MacBook is timed to glow at an adult’s average breathing rate of 12 breaths per minute? Jobs saw the function behind the design behind the function! It didn’t matter if only he saw it. It still permeated the entire Apple experience.

I’ve heard he was a GC’s nightmare. He insisted on only the right marble for a countertop. He fixated on the color grains in granite. And he connected all those design details to his customers. It wasn’t just building a neat store. It was building a store that engaged the Apple shopper and represented the Apple brand.

People found themselves flocking to Apple – the stores and the brand – to become part of the community that just seemed to be cooler than everyone else.

The Apple bullpen has people who can develop the next, better iSomething. After all, Jobs had been ill for a couple of years and the products kept coming. But is there that visionary with the instincts, passion and commitment to what turns shoppers on? Someone who will not simply roll out more glass staircases, but will anticipate exactly when something else could become the architectural representation of the brand?

What will we rave about in this next decade if not Apple’s retail genius? Visionaries are not in long supply. If they were, we wouldn’t be spending all this time talking about Steve Jobs.



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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