‘Design Forward: Creative Strategy at the Core of Sustainable Innovation’ – a new book written by the innovators at Frog Design, Apple’s first “in-house” design contractor, aims to tell the story of how the company was originally brought into work for Apple under the watchful eye of (the now late) Steve Jobs, with the aim of creating a universal “design language” that the Californian company could use to sell its products going forward.
The move was said to be an attempt by Jobs to finally get one up on IBM, who was largely thought to have a stranglehold on the PC market at that time. Jobs had seen the process work with Xerox, a company who specialized in printers, multifunction systems, photo copiers, digital production printing presses, and related consulting services and supplies, and who had originally brought in a design studio from outside the company to handle the design of its products. Xerox flourished shortly afterwards, and it was clear Jobs wanted a piece of the same formula for Apple.
The book talks of the studio’s lead designer, Hartmut Esslinger, and how Esslinger was personally involved in the design decisions of some of Apple’s first product prototypes.
One of those prototypes was the Apple corded phone. Boasting a stylus and LCD display, the retro phone was capable of sending both e-mails and hand-written messages to friends, family, and colleagues – and, of course, calling.
Another of the products detailed in Esslinger’s book is that of Apple’s stylus-driven tablet. It was a long known fact that Former Apple CEO and Chairman, Steve Jobs, was against the very idea of a stylus, with the CEO most famously quoted as saying: “Nobody wants a stylus” … upon unveiling how Apple’s customers would eventually come to use the iPhone with their own fingers, rather than using a physical input device – (which many competing handsets required at the time of the iPhone‘s introduction back in 2007).
While we’re sure most of Esslinger’s design traits, compared to the sleek and thin hardware we see today, may be considered “clunky” to many out there, though, its important not to forget the fact that without this product aesthetic and “design language” brought to Apple by the good folk at Frog Design, Apple probably wouldn’t be sat where it is today.
For ultimately it was the products you see above – (products which Esslinger and the team at Frog Design as a whole were said to have been majorly responsible for) – that ultimately crafted the very foundation of the iPhone, iPad and Macintosh, as we know them today.