Yesterday morning [13 May 2012] I was listening to “Weekend Edition Sunday” on NPR when Rachel Martin* spoke with Walter Isaacson about the many patents that the late Steve Jobs had registered for artistic creations. Mr. Isaacson published a biography of Mr. Jobs about the time Mr.Jobs died. Mr. Isaacson summarized the matter: “You know, he was taught in the early 1980s by a great guy named Mike Markkula that the packaging really matters. You have to impute a beauty to a product from the moment people see the box. And so he has a design patent with some other people at Apple – I think Steve’s name may be first on it – of just the way you open the box to the original iPod and how it is cradled. And you open it and it hinges like a jewel. There’s a certain theater, an emotional theater in the unpacking.”
As I listened I thought that Mr. Isaacson deftly summarized modern impression management: Sellers manipulate impressions via packaging unrelated to content [if indeed the packaging does not substitute for content, as in political speeches].
And attend to Mr.Isaacson’s phrasing [transcript courtesy of LexisNexis Academic]: “You have to impute a beauty to a product from the moment people see the box. … And you open it and it hinges like a jewel. There’s a certain theater, an emotional theater in the unpacking.” Mr. Isaacson’s ode to adornment encapsulates the age. Emotional theater indeed!
* Rachel Martin was my student in Politics and Government at the University of Puget Sound. She has since grown way past anything I might have taught her!