The origin of the “Think Different” campaign

Posted on by Elliot Jackson

Craig Tanimoto was a Senior Creative at Chiat\Day when, in 1997, Apple was in trouble and approached them for a new ad campaign.

Apple had planned on a standard product ad. “The assignment wasn’t to come up with a big idea,” said Craig. “But we took it as ‘Holy smokes, this is Apple possibly coming back to Chiat. Let’s give them a big idea!’”

Craig opened his sketchbook and started drawing variations on Keith Haring’s radiant baby. He doodled some Apple logos, shooting off radiant power lines. Craig drew further inspiration from Rene Magritte’s seminal surrealist work, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” Out popped Craig’s first big concept, a huge billboard with the boxy Macintosh, and the provocation, “This is not a box.” Craig loved the double entendre and circled the idea. From there he played with Dr. Seuss imagery, doodling goofy, long-necked yellow Star-bellied Sneetches and pondering how some are unique and some are social outcasts. Putting words in their mouths, he scribbled in a cartoon dialog box: “Think Different.”

Tucked away in the story is a nice little piece of wisdom from Craig:

Craig shut his book and wouldn’t let anyone see. “Ideas are so fragile,” he said. “If they’re not ready, and if you’re not ready to defend an idea, it can be killed instantly.”

Posted in Apple