Why Steve Jobs’ passion for calligraphy is an inspiration to increase your creativity

by Alena Eager
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September 1, 2021 7 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 1972, Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class at Reed College guided by campus posters he saw after leaving school. The fonts on the posters themselves were artistic enough to get his attention, and he took the class, despite knowing that it wouldn’t give him any credit toward a degree.

Today’s designers and marketers have nearly limitless fonts and creative user interfaces for our digital devices. In a world dominated by ones and zeros, we all owe Jobs a debt of gratitude for bringing creativity to the world of technology.

Without a doubt, Jobs was hooked on the creativity of calligraphy . But there were essential extra elements of creativity that the class instilled in their minds that many entrepreneurs can use to reshape their brand and compete at a higher level.

Creativity: it is a muscle that you can exercise.

All human beings are born creative and have the ability to exercise and develop their creative muscle.

We encourage our children to experiment, express themselves, and explore creatively. Drawing outside the lines is not frowned upon until you sign up for an architecture class.

However, as we begin our journey toward reading, writing, and arithmetic, the outlets for creativity diminish. Without constantly expressing ourselves, such as muscle atrophy, our creative muscles also lose their strength if they are not exercised.

Jobs intuitively knew how to expand his creative muscle when he invested his time in a calligraphy class at Reed. In his 2005 Stanford commencement speech , he talked about his calligraphy class and said:

“I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about how to vary the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typeface great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating . “

Taking a class or course that focuses on creativity, for no other reason besides artistic expression, can naturally turn into creativity for business.

Processes: learn from alternate industries

We learn primarily through our vision. Our minds are visually connected and with tens of millions of images competing for our attention, but we can only process a very small percentage of them.

Do you remember the last time you were going to buy a car? Before deciding on that Subaru, you may have never noticed them on the road. After narrowing down your search, you will see them everywhere. That is our brain that filters the content with our reticular activation system.

Unfortunately, with limited resources of time and visual acuity, we tend to learn only from the leaders in our own industry. I’m pretty sure Jobs didn’t intend to create wedding invitations as a calligrapher, but as he immersed himself in the art of calligraphy , the act of calligraphy opened up creativity in other areas. Calligraphy not only increased his creative muscle, but during the creative process, creativity naturally spread to other areas: computers .

In the book ‘Me, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words’, the tech icon stated: “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough points to connect and end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader the understanding of human experience, the better design we’ll have . “

If you are in the service industry, study best manufacturing practices. This can even be applied to segments within your industry. If you are involved in marketing, study economics or history.

Experiential: turn off the computer

While drawing curves with ink and paper is an important separation of the bits and bytes of the computer world, there is an unspoken element of creativity and muscle memory that is often overlooked.


A recent study from John Hopkins University demonstrated the power of experiential learning specifically with the written word. While writing by hand follows the path to the extinction of the Dodo bird, because of the ease of a computer keyboard, this study found that pencils and paper shouldn’t be thrown away so quickly. In a study of 42 adults learning Arabic, handwriting helped participants learn the language surprisingly faster and significantly better than learning the same material by typing or watching videos.

Jotting down ideas or keeping a journal by hand has been shown to unlock greater creativity in our minds and in our work.

Flow: turn off your brain

Creativity, like losing weight, cannot be perfected in one sitting. Plus, anyone who’s had brilliant ideas in the shower knows that eliminating distractions opens up their creative flow.

It is very valuable to empty your mind, meditate or take a walk in the woods. We can certainly draw ideas from other works of art, copies, and business models. But modifying an idea is not the same as creating it. There is a clear distinction between evolution and revolution . Both have their place, but the most important advances in business and society do not come from the evolution of an idea, but from the revolution of a completely new way of looking at the world.

Turning off distractions and putting yourself in a cool environment creates fertile ground to exercise your creative muscle.

Being creative, attentive, and curious can unlock the hidden value of your brand. Steve Jobs chose not only the skill of calligraphy, but a whole mindset to think creatively and give something unique.

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