ARNOLDSCHE Art Publishers, Stuttgart, Germany, 2012, English
Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design
7.3 x 9.4 inches, flexicover, 308 pages, 235 illustrations and graphics
ISBN: 9783897903814
Suggested Retail Price: $40.00

From the Publisher. In this book Hartmut Esslinger—one of the most influential designers and thinkers internationally, as well as the founder of frog design—explains how "strategic design" in business and society can and must bring about positive change through innovative creativity. A key component is the strategically extended definition of design as a convergent and humanistic amalgamation of technology, the environment, and the economy.

For Esslinger, design has always been a key strategic discipline, which he has practiced successfully in cooperation with companies such as Wega, Louis Vuitton, Sony, SAP, and especially Apple, collaborating directly with Steve Jobs. Therefore in this book he sets out to establish a wide range of creative innovators as top executives, who are equally influential and occupy leading positions in economics, education and politics.

As every future projection is always also based on history, Design Forward also shows relevant and richly illustrated case studies taken from Esslinger’s career with frog design, as well as selected works by his students at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, where he teaches as a professor of Industrial Design.

The content of Design Forward supplements Esslinger’s previous publication A Fine Line, which has been published in six languages, both conceptually and as a source of professional inspiration.

With contributions by the students from the Master Class ID2 at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and by other academic partners.

Hartmut Esslinger's credo: “Things aren't just objects, but made for us.”

On 2 book lists
Phil Patton

The process by which news turns into history is a strange one: nothing ages faster than new technology, for instance. But the personal computer is making its transition to the area of history—the laptop, the PDA, the mobile phone all will follow soon. One recent part of the process is a new book from Hartmut Esslinger, the founder of frogdesign (“Frog”), the firm that worked with Apple Design in the 1980s. Esslinger’s book is an illustration of this process in action. (In a token of 1960s, counterculture informality, Esslinger insisted on spelling the name frogdesign, with a lowercase initial, which was undone by the firm’s later acquisition by a larger corporation.)

Esslinger emphasizes the idea of “strategic design” as a key business discipline. His other clients included Lufthansa, A.T.&T, Louis Vuitton, Sony, and SAP. The book also includes work with his students at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Praise for Apple design has tended to focus on Jonathan Ive and his staff and ignore the longstanding, but quite different contributions of Esslinger and Bob Brunner. In a reminder of the company’s earliest days, Esslinger includes photos of “concept” products mocked up for Apple. These early Apple products suggest a wide level of experimentation. They include upright workstations, amazingly contemporary laptops, small computers (“Baby Mac”) and the “MacPhone,” a slate with stylus and telephone handset—attached with a cord.

In retrospect, the question that is clear and is the nature of Apple’s success was figuring out which technologies were mature enough for which designs. The stylus-driven screens, say, or integrated telephones or some of the cooler concepts were not commercially ready in the late 1980s.

There is a consistency in appearance to the concepts. Frog’s achievement was to bring to Apple the idea of a consistent corporate design language, as practiced by Sony and IBM (or Kodak for that matter.) Esslinger named his “Snow White.”

The language stipulated the regular use of color, gridded ventilation areas, and consistently radiused corners for all Apple products. Its name referred initially to seven Apple product lines—“dwarves”—that were to be designed but also perhaps an echo of the fairy-tale Snow White. Esslinger had been inspired by the design consistency of Sony and of Braun. But he saw the limits of pure, cold geometric modernism. Snow White evoked “Snow White’s coffin”—the famous nickname given to an iconic Braun radio/record player hi-fi unit.

Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985 and Frog’s work for the company soon stopped. Frog went on to work on Job’s start-up, Next.

Apple was only one of the high-tech companies and projects Esslinger and frogdesign worked on. One interesting example, around the same time as Apple’s Newton handheld, was the 1993 A.T.&T. EO “personal communicator.”

It is amazing how fast high-tech projects and products can be forgotten—think of Palm Pilots and CD ROMs. But it is critical that designers record these early days of digital technology to avoid repeating mistakes. Many quirks of design turn out to have been the results of technological limits of the time that ended up embedded in our common standards. And many early ideas that were impractical at the time could now be successfully revived. One of the virtues of Esslinger’s book is to give us a longer-view technological perspective at a time when we narrowly focus on this month’s or even this week’s technological innovations. His lesson is about matching design and technology.

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