Co.Design

Xbox Designer On Working Next Door To Steve Jobs

ASTRO Studios' Brett Lovelady provides proof that Jobs, however larger than life he may seem, is not a robot. Really!

I’ve lived about a mile from Apple campus in Silicon Valley for over 20 years. In my early design life, I even helped design some Apple products and advanced concepts. From that time until now, whether it was via my neighbors or friends that worked at Apple or from industry buzz in the Valley, I've developed a picture of “Steve” (you just say “Steve,” and people in the Valley know which Steve you mean). My favorite wink-and-nod rumor was that Steve was really a robot that Wozniak created to rule the world. At a distance, that seems plausible. But with this in mind, one connection with Steve stands out to me.

My company ASTRO Studios started in the mid-'90s in downtown Palo Alto, where we shared a small private parking lot with Steve and his private office. In fact, our windows faced each other on this narrow tree-lined street. More than once Steve would be trying to park his stainless-steel Mercedes as our crew was finishing an RC car race on the back lot. He’d patiently wait for us to finish, then give us a look of “You boys have your fun; I’m changing the world,” or maybe it was a look of envy at our ability to just hang out and play. Tough to know for sure.

From a design perspective, I have always believed Steve to be foremost a hard-driving, ultra-focused design and innovation junkie with the strength of vision and purpose to build the world’s best brands. He has been great for design. By putting design in front of and on par with other critical business disciplines, Steve has set a bar many leaders aspire to but few have been willing to invest enough capital, vision, and talent to attain. This authentic persona has always endeared him to the Bay Area design community, and to have him in our backyard gives many of us inspiration and confidence.

Now back to my testimonial. Over the years, we’d exchange quick neighborly acknowledgments as Steve came and went, and it eventually felt normal to have a famous guy as our lot buddy. Steve’s office was set up before he had returned to Apple the second time, and we’d often see him meeting at odd hours with teams from Pixar and Apple, the press, and others fortunate to have audience with Mr. Jobs.

But the thing I remember most often was seeing Steve looking out the back window of this office where he had set up a little gym, his head bobbing up and down as he climbed the StairMaster. Our young design team could look out from our front window to see this Valley icon sweating, swigging water, and toweling his red face -- just like the rest of us. It gave me a sense that he’s not just a living legend but also a regular guy with a lot of dreams that came true one step at a time. And it also proved to me that he’s not a robot.

What makes Steve Jobs so great? Click here for Co.Design's take.

[Photo by seier+seier]

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12 Comments

  • Jack O'Neill

     
     "You saw his head as he exercised? That's it? That's your "personal" experience with Jobs? Can I have the last five minutes of my life back now?"
    A) He isn't a journalist. He is a member of the public, specifically the design community, who wanted to share his experience of Steve Jobs with FastCo, and they thought it was interesting enough to share. 

    B) That wasn't his only personal experience. That was the one he remembers most because he felt a connection between the 'untouchable' Steve Jobs, and himself. The writer obviously found it nice to see that even though there was all that wealth and power, he still slaved over staying fit like any other human being.

    C) If that took you five minutes, you shouldn't be criticizing anyone.

    Thank you Brett, I found it interesting, and a nice break from the other posts which showed a bit of personality and background. 

    Next time BongBong, please don't jump to conclusions. If you don't like it, don't read it. End of story. 

  • bjlange

    I'm not convinced.  Robots are pretty good at Stairmasters.

    Seriously though, nice piece.

  • Glennette Clark

    Thanks for this story. It is the moments, not the epics, that we remember fondly and that give us insight into ourselves and others.

  • Jordan Wyatt

    Please ignore the negative comments, I really appreciated your story, thank you :-)

  • hiholto

    Actually this guy's "day job" is very similar to Steve Jobs'. He has taken designs that weren't working very well and made them great.

    I have a pair of Astro Headphones that have lasted me years now with no issues and no cracks/breaks/etc in the headband. Not to mention I can buy extra parts for all of it and they came packaged as an "experience" not unlike each time I open a new Mac. 

    His team made a decent product category great by using quality materials, good design and great aesthetics to redefine for me how a pair of headphones should be experienced. What's your day job?

  • DingDong

    Maybe once fast company realizes who bongbong is they'll ask what his person experience is with Steve... until then I guess he'll just be the guy who read an article about a guy who saw his head bobbing up and down. 

  • BongBong

    You saw his head as he exercised? That's it? That's your "personal" experience with Jobs? Can I have the last five minutes of my life back now?

  • Eternallyinsane

    Bong bong said it all. This guy is a terrible storyteller. don't quit your day job playing with rc cars.