Ancestors of the iPod's Design

by Jochen Wolters

Steve Jobs's obsession with style is proverbial, and outstanding design has been an Apple hallmark for years, both on- and off-screen. (OK, there are a few exceptions...). During the early eighties, Hartmut Esslinger's frog design studio had the biggest impact on Apple's hardware designs.

Now, his son Marc has published an article on a German website, reminiscing about what it was like when Steve Jobs discussed design and product strategy with Hartmut Esslinger late into the night, playing the Beatles's "Revolution" album from the "White Album" at full blast, while 11-year-old Marc was trying to find some sleep under his Apple-themed bed sheets.


Two interesting quotes from the article:

Apple thinks "thirst" not "glass of water;" an electronic device as a cultural and human statement not just a piece of plastic and technology.

[nowadays] every marketing director [of other frog design customers] would eventually step into the room with an iPod in hand and say: "Build me an iPod, we want to become the Apple of our industry."

To complement his article, Marc has thrown in some design study photos, some of them previously unpublished. It is stunning how many of these designs still feel "fresh" today despite their age of some twenty years. Even if you don't understand German, it is well worth visiting the article page for the photo gallery alone. Scroll to the gallery at the bottom of the article and click on any of the images for a larger version.


2007-08-12 07:15:24
The Beatles had an album called "Revolution"?


R Brown
2007-08-12 08:16:32
Hey! I know of a Color Classic that is still in (occasional) use! It's used to run some old genetics educational software at the college where I work.
Jochen Wolters
2007-08-12 13:43:40

Should have been "Revolution" from the "White Album." Sorry for that, and thanks for pointing this out.

R Brown:

Feature-wise, the Color Classic was a neat machine, but, design-wise, I find it to be "rather lacking." Of course, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder... ;) On another note, I do find it interesting how many old Macs are still being used productively today, especially in the field of life-sciences.

2007-08-14 08:34:39
I found that that the one shot really looked like the eMac (shot 22?). If you visit the gallery a few of the laptop photos are refered to as MacBook shot 24 for example. I didn't realize Apple's interest in phones dates back 20 years.