A new book by the founder of Apple's first "in-house" design contractor, frog design
, brings back memorable photos of many early Apple prototypes, including a (corded) phone with an LCD display that could also send email, a stylus-driven tablet, a dual-flatscreen workstation and a MacBook portable notebook -- all designed in the early 80s. German designer Hartmut Esslinger has included many prototypes in his latest book, Design Forward
The book tells of how Esslinger and frog design were brought into Apple by way of a design competition, one that Jobs instigated to overcome the company's falling sales against the IBM PC. Jobs wanted to create a common "design language" that would give Apple products a unified, elegant look that was distinct in the marketplace, something that wasn't being done at the time the Apple III and the Lisa were first being introduced. Jobs took the idea from Xerox, which had hired a design agency to work with its own multiple divisions.
In the beginning, Jobs brought many concepts to the table, including "what if Sony made computers," a vision that Esslinger told designboom
he felt could run into trouble if adopted, even though at the time Sony was not in that market. Samsung later referenced Jobs' inspiration from Sony electronics design as a central point of its argument that "everyone" copies from each other, and therefore Samsung's own copying of Apple's designs and technology was not egregious.
Jobs also wanted elements of classic "Americana" design statements, ranging from the look of the Studebaker automobile to the Coke bottle. Esslinger was left to his own devices to come up with "concept three," which ended up capturing the look of the Macintosh line from its beginnings into the 90s.
Esslinger's designs, while "chunky" by today's standards, took industrial design for computers in new directions and demonstrated an early Apple tradition of trying to push the available materials in new ways. Many of the design concepts showcased in the book eventually made their way into some Mac designs, though shots of early prototypes of the first Macs and the immediate successors ventured off in many different directions.
Esslinger began his career working with Sony on its Trinitron and Wega televisions before moving on to Apple from before the Mac debuted in 1984 to 1990. He later joined Steve Jobs at NeXT, and also worked with Lufthansa, SAP, Microsoft, Siemens, NEC, Olympus, HP, Motorola and General Electric. [via designboom
image credits © designboom