Why Did Apple Pick Daniel Johnston’s “Story of An Artist” for its Ad?


Daniel Dale Johnston (born January 22, 1961) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and visual artist who is regarded as a significant figure in outsider, lo-fi, and alternative music scenes. Most of his work consists of cassettes he recorded alone in his home, and his music is frequently cited for its “pure and childlike soul”.


Johnston has spent extended periods of his life in psychiatric institutions and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and manic depression. He gathered a local following in the 1980s by passing out tapes of his music while working at a McDonald’s in Austin, Texas.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) wearing Daniel’s shirt design

His cult status was propelled when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was seen wearing a T-shirt that featured artwork from Johnston’s 1983 album Hi, How Are You.


In 2005, Johnston was the subject of the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. In 2018, Johnston’s 1982 song “The Story of an Artist” was featured in a television advertisement by Apple Inc.


Apple’s pick of Daniel Johnston is a bold statement.  Apple is trying to align itself once again with the crazy, odd, and bold.  Apple is trying to reinforce what it reckons itself to be …. a piece of bold art!

But in doing so, Apple is also bringing attention to local artists, to mental disorders, and the empowerment of the art of self-expression.

This new campaign seems to remind us what Apple is about, and by doing so, trying to remind us of what are we about!  It strikes the right balance showing a cross-section of us finding our way to some creative truth.

Wissam Charafeddine

CEO, W Design and Development

  1. it is an insult to art for one of the largest companies in the world to hawk their child labor tripe using this art for advertising



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