Apple's ad campaign, rolled out this summer, makes a big deal about it: "This is our signature. And it means everything. Designed by Apple in California."
It is a telling tagline. Products that bear the Apple imprimatur do possess a certain cultural authority.
It is not unlike the great Florentine artist Michelangelo, whose Pieta sculpture was once mistaken for that of a rival. His cultural authority in question, Michelangelo slipped in at night with a chisel and marked his masterpiece: MICHAEL. ANGELUS. BONAROTUS. FLORENT. FACIEBAT. "Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this." It was the only piece of art Michelangelo ever signed.
Like Michelangelo in the 15th century, Apple in the 21st has captured the cultural imagination by combining signature design with lofty ideals. Michelangelo (and his Renaissance artist competitors) commanded popular taste by producing beautiful objects that mediated the religious ethos of the era. Today, Apple (and its competitors) makes beautiful objects that mediate the technological magic of our age.
Apple has never been shy about claiming its role as artist and shaman. Links between religion and art and the promise of technology are frequently revealed in the company's advertising campaigns. The 2007 ad that launched the iPhone, for example, shows the glowing device floating against a black background. A solitary finger reaches out to touch the haloed screen, and the tagline reads, "Touching is Believing."
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