This is true
But then nothing is certain in life except death, taxes and Rocky sequels. The things I first loved about the Internet are gone. Like the usenet newsgroups, gobbled up by Google and left to twist slowly in the wind.
Love that Mall of America image, by the way. Lots of snooty people dismissed the mall as the epitome of crassness. Then in 2007 I spoke to Jon Jerde, the architect whose firm designed the mall and other gaudy concrete confections in Las Vegas and Dubai.
Met him in his office in Venice, California, when a former Apple colleague of mine was working on a project for him. You mentioned quirky. That’s a good word to describe Jon Jerde.
Life swirled by as colorfully as ever on the Venice Beach boardwalk right outside the Jerde Partnership’s conference room. Harry Perry rolled past on his skates with his sikh turban and Fender Stratocaster guitar (I remembered him from the time I freelanced as a copywriter at the Chiat/Day office in Venice in 1992–1993; he’s been a boardwalk busker since 1973).
But Jerde’s mind was on the cobblestoned piazzas of Italy. He probably thought of himself as a Renaissance man, and maybe he was. Right out of college he’d won a scholarship that allowed him to spend a year in Florence. He said the most important thing he’d learned there was about how places affected people. He said the Florentines had learned about public spaces from the Arabian souks and bazaars.
He said such places had a visceral quality that appealed to people below their conscious thinking level. He said he’d applied what he learned from that in his own architecture.
One got the sense that Jerde focused less on what a place looked like and more on what it made you feel like. What emotions and impulses would a space evoke when you entered it? Jerde called this place-making. He liked that term so much that he even trademarked it.
Tim Kobe of Eight, Inc., is someone else who designs magnetic spaces. Tim and his designers operate at the other end of the experiential spectrum from Jerde, obsessing over the sensory aspects of smaller, more jewel-like places. Kobe and Eight Inc. are, if you will, more like Van Cleef & Arpels instead of the Shane Company.
I’d transferred to Apple’s corporate identity department when Tim Kobe designed the prototype for the first Apple Store in 1995–1996. This was more than a year before Steve Jobs returned to Apple.
Gaynelle Grover, then director of Apple Corporate Identity, figured that high-end retail stores would be the perfect way for prospects to experience the Apple brand.
Gaynelle commissioned Kobe and Eight Inc. to design a pristine retail environment—a space that reflected the Apple brand’s cachet, and that would attract PC-users and encourage them to begin their love affair with Macintosh computers.
Apple was on life support at the time and the management team either didn’t get it or was too preoccupied with sagging sales to focus on branding. To be fair, I didn’t get it, either. But when Steve Jobs wrested control of the company in 1997, he used Gaynelle Grover’s branding recommendations and Tim Kobe’s original sketches as the basis for Apple’s retail sales turnaround.
What Tim Kobe and Jon Jerde were really creating was ambience, of course. And it’s analogous to places where millions of people like to hang out in the digital realm.
Just like Medium, for however long this place stays open before Google or Facebook buys it and turns it into something else. So we might as well savor this moment while it lasts.
Since you mentioned him in your response: I haven’t seen Dave Winer ☮ since March 1997, when he live-blogged an event for Apple from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I had never seen that done before, technopeasant that I was. Forget what the event was called, but it was then-CEO Gil Amelio’s last hurrah.
The Apple party the final night of the event had an elegiac quality that haunts me still. We had a mass layoff—a real bloodbath—when we got back to Cupertino the following day. Most of the Apple employees who were with me in Los Angeles were gone. And so it goes.