An Obstacle to Steve’s Standard

I had a thought the other day while walking my dog (where all the best thinking happens, I’ve learned), and I’m starting to feel like it may be important. There’s been a lot of talk lately in the tech & design communities about Steve Jobs, focused primarily on the impact that he had on our daily lives. For someone like me, that impact was not small.

But there’s also been another Jobs discussion, the one where we laud his incredible ability to create things that are great (beyond world-class even), and then examine our own responsibilities as creators to hold ourselves to Steve’s standard. This is the discussion where we look introspectively, and dissect the value of the work we’re doing ourselves. We hold ourselves against the ideal and see how we measure up. There’s a clear beacon to point our boat towards now. It was there before, but it’s much more obvious now.

So while walking around thinking about Steve’s standard, and how best to steer the boat, something popped in my head that surprised me:

The level of perfectionism Steve Jobs embodied isn’t an achievable outcome in client work. If that’s the mark that we’re aiming for, then we have to accept that it’s simply not possible to achieve doing work for anyone but yourself. If you’re not the one with the final say, then no amount of vision & wisdom will get you to perfection.

Seems obvious, I know.

There’s been a sort of call-to-arms lately regarding designers taking ownership of their opportunities, and I’m unquestionably late to the party. Khoi Vinh lays out his reasoning far more eloquently than I could, but that’s fine; I think the point I’m making is coming from a different angle. It’s not something that I’m ready to act on, considering about 95% of our revenue is from client work right now. But it is something I’m considering heavily as I chart the course.