Why are you writing this book?
Why are you writing this book?
Something hit me during the memorial at Stanford when I was among the 400 or so close friends and colleagues he had worked with. Each of them had ten or maybe a hundred stories to tell about Steve. If that’s not a testament to someone’s character, then what is? That’s how you know someone left a mark, made a difference, changed things. I got goosebumps when I thought about that.
I thought that I should write many of my stories, events and moments that I shared with Steve in some form that others might enjoy. I’ve told many of these stories to friends in person and they usually say, “you should write a book!”. So I’m working on one.
There’s a lot of information out there from journalists or impressions from his presentations. But stories from people who worked closely with him for decades fill in the painting, as you mentioned earlier Chris, of who he really was.
You took an unconventional approach to Pixar’s public offering. Can you explain?
Public offering presentations are usually filled with slides of financial metrics and not much else. Steve wanted to tell Pixar’s unique story and not just conform to the norm. So I created two sets of roadshow cases, including the best 36” Sony Trinitron TVs we could buy in 1995. We brought a Hi-8 video deck for Toy Story movie clips and ThinkPads running Concurrence on OpenStep for the presentation. I had these cases shipping all over the country. Sometimes we loaded them on the plane that we took from presentation to presentation.
Steve explained how they developed stories. Pixar would work tirelessly on the storyboards before any 3D graphics were ever created, essentially making the movie before making the movie. At scheduled times they would take those storyboards down to Disney for feedback. Disney was funding Toy Story, after all, and was also the gold standard in animation. So, the top brass at Disney would screen these story reels and give notes to Pixar. At that point, you would think that the Pixar team would bring the Disney notes back to their teeny company and implement the suggestions. But that was never ever the case.
What the notes told them was where the problems were in the narrative. John and his team had the confidence in their artistic vision. So they trusted that confidence in themselves to enact the fixes not just implement the Disney feedback.
This is was how Steve also used those working for him to help him craft the best products Apple launches.
I had the feeling in my time with Steve that he was possessed with perfection. Little details no one else noticed made him crazy.
He was possessed with perfection to a point. Some of the most gratifying moments for me were when I’d notice (once viewing on the 36 foot screens) a single pixel I could l still fix on an image. When he’d say, “Wayne, you’re the only one who’ll ever notice.” Then I knew I was done with that image.
Here’s another example as it related to a product:
During iPad launch preparation, we were struggling to get the iPad “beauty shots” to look like Steve imagined they should look. We’d had multiple photo shoots and teams working literally to get one or two insanely great images of the iPad. He wanted a beauty shot with a clean edge and the Apple logo visible the right side up. The problem was this was not possible without seeing the long side iPad 30-pin connector. You may ask, there’s only one on the short side. At that point there were two, one on each side. That way you could dock it in landscape or portrait orientation.
I had thought he was satisfied with the beauty shots delivered since we’d moved on in the slide deck. But one night close to the keynote date, he decided he wasn’t happy with those beauty shots of the iPad. I was tired and knew that there was no way to make them any better.
So, that evening before shutting down for the night, I photoshopped out the port on the long side on a few of the shots and sent them off to him. I figured he’d see them in the morning and we’d have a good laugh about it. Instead he almost immediately called me as said, “These are exactly what I was looking for… oh you didn’t?” To which I replied, “I did” and the phone went click.
There was no way to get a beauty shot that Steve would accept with that port on the side, so the iPad shipped without it. It also simplified the presentation, which he liked.
I recognize that chair!
Hahaha, there’s a story about the above “iPad chair” too, but you’ll have to read the book ;)
Did you call him Betty?
Yeah, whenever he called me Mitch. The guy who did the job before I came back at NeXT was Mitch Green. Thus after my return, Steve kept calling me Mitch every damn time he needed something. Even in front of other people. So I started calling him Betty when he did it. He would just look at me weird at first, but finally he got it and said (in jest… maybe) “if you ever decide you want to change your name, just change it to Mitch. It’ll be easier for me.”
After that I thought, I swear to God, if he calls me Mitch five more times I am going to quit. I counted and he only did it four more times.
Imagine if he did it a fifth time and you followed through. No more eyewitness to a life so extraordinary.
I cannot even imagine!
Thank you for an AMAZING interview, Wayne! (Yikes, I almost typed Mitch after that story 😅).