The Cult of Apple: From Store Design to Spiritual Transcendence

In what has been dubbed “the cult of Apple,” explore the physical and metaphysical components of the company’s technology – the Apple store design and the communication technologies for expression of self in the modern age – that has helped amass a following.


| October 2013



Appletopia by Brett T. Robinson Book Cover

"Appletopia" by Brett T. Robinson analyzes the Apple brand, which is the latest in a long line of American symbols that have captured the national imagination and spawned a “cult” of loyalists.

Cover Courtesy Baylor University Press

Appletopia: Media Technology and the Religious Imagination of Steve Jobs (Baylor University Press, 2013) analyzes Steve Jobs' uncanny ability to integrate philosophical and religious thought with technological genius, laying the groundwork for Apple's ubiquity today. As it turns out, culture was eager to find meaning in the burgeoning technological revolution, naming Jobs as its prophet and Apple's advertising as its gospel. Read as Robinson discusses the cult of Apple in its founder, Steve Job’s, ability to combine art with technology as it analyzes the Apple store design and the modernity’s effect on religion and social relationships. This excerpt is taken from the Introduction: Media Technology and Cultural Change.

In 2011 by one estimate the most photographed landmark in New York City was not Rockefeller Center or Times Square; it was the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. The shimmering glass cube is otherworldly. The $7 million structure stands thirty-two feet high and features a glass spiral staircase wrapped around a glass elevator. A glowing Apple logo floats in the center of the cube. Inside the store, there are no shelves or boxes, just wooden tables with Apple’s glowing products on display. Faithful consumers wander the cavernous interior admiring Apple devices in a virtual “cathedral of consumption.”

In his novel Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo’s archdeacon looks up at the Notre-Dame Cathedral with a book in his hand and says, “This will kill that. The book will kill the edifice.” Hugo explains the archdeacon’s comment this way:

It was a presentiment that human thought, in changing its form, was about to change its mode of expression; that the dominant idea of each generation would no longer be written with the same matter, and in the same manner; that the book of stone, so solid and so durable, was about to make way for the book of paper, more solid and still more durable.

The cultural authority of the cathedral was giving way to the revolution of ideas unleashed by the printing press and books. Hugo’s parable is instructive for the modern age as well. The authority of the printed page is now giving way to the universality of glass screens.

The transcendent Apple store design fits a historical pattern wherein the dominant media technology of an age acquires a sacred status. The baroque design of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the vaulted ceiling of the Long Room in Trinity College Library in Dublin are testaments to the sacred status granted to books as precious vessels of knowledge and cultural patrimony. When books were king, their homes were built in the highest architectural style of the day. Libraries were imagined as sacred spaces because they were instruments for transmitting culture to future generations, promoting community, and organizing chaos.