Six years after the birth of Apple Computer, co-founder and Chairman Steve Jobs decided his company sorely needed a unified design ethos. In the book "Design Forward," released in the U.S. today, legendary industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger, founder of Frog Design, reveals how his company and Jobs worked together to streamline Apple's sense of style.
The year is 1982, and each Apple product division has its own design head. Realizing the potential disarray that could result from this approach (and following a similar move by Xerox), several designers at the Cupertino, Calif., company host a competitive event between two prominent global design houses. "Apple would choose a final winner and then use that design as the framework for its new design language," says a passage in "Design Forward" provided to CNET by Arnoldsche Art Publishers.
In the book, Esslinger describes how he recognized the shortfalls of Apple's product development process, and wowed his interviewer, Jobs, who dreamed of selling a million Macs (a lofty goal in comparison with the 100,000 Apple II computers sold at the time).
"I offered Steve a number of proposals for meeting his goal. First, Apple would need totally different systems for engineering, third-party partnerships, manufacturing, and logistics as well as design. I also proposed that Apple could compensate for its lack of world-class mechanical engineering by using Sony, Canon, Samsung, and other electronic consumer companies in Asia as development and manufacturing partners. Most importantly, I explained, Apple needed one design team that directly reported to him, and that design had to be involved far ahead of any actual product development in Apple's strategic planning."
After passing the verbal test, Frog Design submitted an eclectic batch of mock computers in attempt to win a lucrative $2 million annual contract from Apple, and more importantly, permission to rule the design roost. The German design house won.
Among many other proposals, Jobs insisted that Esslinger create a computer that echoed Sony's simplistic yet sharp-as-a-tack design standard. A rather easy task for Esslinger, as the designer worked for the Japanese company before Apple. High assembly costs and a lack of cool left this idea on the backburner, however.
February 16, 2013 4:00 AM PST
Photo by: Hartmut Esslinger, Frog team
| Caption by: Christopher MacManus
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