The Only Way To Do Great Things Is To Love What You Do (And Some Ramblings On Typography)

If you haven’t watched Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address, I highly suggest taking a quick break to give it a listen, or click over to the Stanford website to read it.

If you have spent any time at all on the internet in the last 10 years you have likely seen this quote:

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

It’s a gem, and one of my favorites. The whole speech is friendly, almost conversational, and filled with many more beautiful and thought-provoking insights. Here are a few more of my favorites:

I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

We get one go of it in this life. Knowing when to stay the course and when to change it up can be difficult to discern, but I think Steve’s formula here is spot on.

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus 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 different 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.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

I first read about Steve when researched and bought my first two Mac’s back in 2006, when they switched to Intel processors. My move away from Windows into the unknown of Apple was greatly motivated by the sheer clean beauty of Apple’s OS and the software it ran. In the speech, Jobs’ mentions the calligraphy class he took at Reed College, not because it fulfilled any requirement but simply because he found it interesting.

As a bit of a typography geek, this makes my heart happy. That one typography class has effectively changed our world for the better in ways we likely can’t even comprehend.

Imagine if every website used the same bland font! Every billboard, document, license plate, book. Visual interest in the written word can be made or broken based in a huge part on how the text looks and how different formations of text stimulate our brains. The psychology of typography is a fascinating subject. Different styles of text and formatting nudge our brain to draw different conclusions about the intention of the message and its sender.

I could easily sidetrack myself here, but instead I’ll share some links so you can fall down the same rabbit hole if you feel so inclined.  🙂


https://getflywheel.com/layout/psychology-of-typography/

https://www.companyfolders.com/blog/font-psychology-how-typefaces-hack-our-brains

https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/psychology-of-fonts-infographic/


I, for one, am grateful for that calligraphy class at Reed College, and for Steve and all those following their interests and their hearts to pioneer change in our world every day.

Our future is bright. Find what you love to do, and do it. And then get out there and tell the world, so we can share in your enthusiasm and learn from each other.

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