As a designer there is an odd handshake that plays out between the love and loathing of creating something famous. For on the one hand, to be loved is to be admired, awed, inspiring and garners the attention of fellow artists. To be loved means to be copied as in the case of say the Barcelona chair created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, or to be set apart from time and placed in museums for future generations to treasure.
But with that fame comes the loathing of the critics, of being mass consumed and being considered part of the everyday. With fame, your object of creation becomes less of desire and more of objectivity. In each future creation, you and the new work is judged based on your highest previous achievement. Never will A-minus work satisfy the palette of your consumers. Think of all the one-hit wonders, the authors and artists that have had just one bestseller. Once a cog, never then a flag.
This balance can be controlled. As evidence, see the items that price themselves out of 99.9% of people’s hands. A Breitling or Rolex watch, the Tesla Roadster, or a Tiffany engagement ring. Price control is a sure way to manage your designs level of prestige simply because of its unattainability. You add wanting to your invention. These products build large submarkets of spinoffs and knockoffs for folks wanting the look without the price tag.
But economics is part of design. As much as the metals and buttons that make your idea a reality, economics makes it possible to create the first prototype and manufacture the first product off the assembly line. Economics, loved or loathed, makes possible both the products we can and can’t afford.
Steve Jobs mastered the art of the handshake that all designers face, to be loved as an object of desire, but also to functionally enlighten the everyday experiences. He made sure to pay close attention to the personal within the product. He succeeded not only in numbers but in engagement. He prized his products enough to price them as functional and inspiring art, and to build designs that were both loved and so much a part of our everyday.