Josiah Wedgwood and Steve Jobs, both utilitarian, both utopian

I’ve been pretty busy this semester with my faculty position at the new School of Visual Arts, Masters in Branding program. It’s been terribly exciting, but the blog has been a little quiet. My apologies.

Gave a lecture last night that compared the brand-building magicians, Josiah Wedgwood and Steve Jobs. Two unlikely characters, separated by the centuries, but connected by a radical sense of how to build a compelling and integrated brand experience.

The frenzy to own china in the 1760s was not much different from the frenzy to own an iPad today. These objects are both cultural icons of their time, and a reflection of an individual’s place in the world, while being tools both utilitarian and utopian.

And using the tools of their age both of these marketers combine design, technology, sales, marketing, advertising, merchandising, logistics, retailing, and creative showmanship. Both also share a similar philosophy on design and on the position of their brands in the marketplace.

As the images of two amazingly similar retail spaces suggest (one from 1809 and one from 2009), they both understood the need to combine “business and amusement” in their in-store experience.

On Design
Jobs says, “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains or the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

Wedgwood said, “Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufactures.”

On Brand Position
Wedgwood said, “We agreed that those customers who were more fond of show and glitter, than fine forms . . would buy Soho, and that all those who would feel the effects of fine outline or had the veneration for antiquity would be with us.”

Jobs says, “Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.”

Separated by the centuries perhaps, but each a uniquely successful advocate for design’s role in building brand experiences.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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2 Responses to Josiah Wedgwood and Steve Jobs, both utilitarian, both utopian

  1. Dennis Moons says:

    Fascinating! Love those store designs.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Josiah Wedgwood and Steve Jobs, both utilitarian, both utopian | The Package Unseen --

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