ArtsATL > Books > Jonathan Zufi captures Apple’s evolution in ICONIC, an encyclopedic picture book

Jonathan Zufi captures Apple’s evolution in ICONIC, an encyclopedic picture book

This page from ICONIC displays a rainbow of iPods.
This page from ICONIC displays a rainbow of iPods.
This page from ICONIC displays a rainbow of iPods.

It’s hard to describe ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation (Ridgewood Publishing, 2013). It’s neither a catalog, nor a reference book for Apple, Inc., the vaunted technology company, and though its dimensions typify those of a coffee table book, ICONIC is much more.

With 650 photographs of over 500 Apple products, ICONIC is a pictorial memoir and a comprehensive archive. And perhaps its on its way to becoming an icon itself. The talk of tech message boards since its publication on October 4, 2013, it has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and on cnn.com.

Atlantan Jonathan Zufi
Atlantan Jonathan Zufi

You might call it a fanzine as well. Jonathan Zufi, ICONIC’s author and creator, has a passion for Apple products that began at age 13 with an Apple IIc and continues today with the iPhone, his favorite item, and the other devices that fill his home, including an Apple TV, a MacBook, an iPad, an iPod and a Mac Pro.

At a Starbucks in Johns Creek, Zufi’s face lights up when he talks about Apple products and the book project to which he’s devoted his life over the past four years. An Atlantan since 2005, the 43-year-old Aussie software developer attributes the idea to an urge to play a computer game from his childhood called RobotWar. First, he had to find an Apple II computer to play it on.

“As I browsed through the vintage computer section of eBay,” says Zufi, director of the Mobility Innovation Center at SAP America Inc.’s Atlanta branch, “I thought about the idea of creating a single repository of high-definition imagery for the older, more retro Apple products that extended into a fully comprehensive archive of everything Apple has produced since 1976.”

He began purchasing Apple products from eBay and storing them in a facility near his home. His collection of 500 devices includes both popular models and rare Apple products. It boasts the very first disk drive for the Apple II, with the serial number 001, and 160 iPods from every generation and every color, as well as all but four iPod watch faces.

Over the course of four years, he took over 150,000 pictures of his collection in the hours after his children went to bed. (Though Zufi is an amateur photographer, he consulted a professor at SCAD about the basics of photography and lighting.)

The resulting book traces Apple’s technological journey in six chapters: “Desktops,” “Portables” (such as laptops), “Peripherals” (such as disk drives, joy sticks, gaming devices, and paddles), “iDevices” (iPods, iPhones), “Prototypes” (from the Macintosh and MacBook Pro), and “Packaging” (the original boxes from all the products).

Each spread features one or two close-up shots of an Apple device. Introductions to each chapter, and quotes by individuals who have had relationships with Apple, Inc., are the only text. For instance, the “Desktops” chapter features a quote from cofounder Steve Jobs: “And then we had our big idea . . . Why don’t we let each element be true to itself. If the screen’s flat, let it be flat. If the computer wants to be horizontal, let it be horizontal . . . a beauty and a grace that is gonna last the next decade.”

Zufi briefly considered trying to take ICONIC to a publishing house but decided against it. “The royalties and advances seemed extremely low given my personal time and investment in the project,” he says, “but it would also have meant giving up creative control, cover design and content selection.”

The "o" in ICONIC is an Apple power button.
The “O” in the title is an Apple power button.

He became his own publisher, hiring Lisa Clark to design the book based on his vision and direction, and Forest McMullin as the editor to help him cull the photos and structure it. Zufi’s wife, Louisa, a key player in postproduction, handles the distribution.

In January 2013, Zufi arranged a private meeting with cofounder Steve Wozniak when he appeared at Georgia State University to show him a digital draft on his iPad. Wozniak was so impressed by what he saw, he wrote the following forward:

 “The beauty of design that Apple is known for deserves beautiful photography, and that is what Jonathan has given us. Within these pages, Jonathan presents a thoughtful and artistic gift to Apple fans and employees alike: photographs of Apple products — from hardware to packaging — the likes of which I’ve never seen compiled before.”

ICONIC, only sold through its website, costs $75. A classic plus edition, which includes a vintage case resembling an oversized disk drive, sells for $300. To date, Zufi has sold 4,500 copies in 50 countries, including India, Australia, Thailand, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Japan, Taiwan, China and the Philippines. He has filled orders in all 50 states; the majority have gone to California, the home of Silicon Valley and Apple, Inc.’s headquarters in Cupertino.

Zufi hopes Apple fans find in ICONIC a compelling narrative of the company’s history and a deeper understanding of its impact in a world where Apple devices line the back-pockets, purses, briefcases and backpacks of millions.

Click here to view more photos.

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