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Home / News / Early Apple designs show seeds of change

Early Apple designs show seeds of change

Designer Hartmut Esslinger shows off 1980s Apple concepts – including designs inspired by "what Sony would do it if built computers"

Apple’s always been known for the design of its kit – and while today’s Apple designs are conjured up by Sir Jonathan Ive, back in the 1980s, it was Hartmut Esslinger’s Frog Design which created the Snow White design language that came to define Apple products.

Snow White didn’t come into being fully formed, though – as these early designs from Esslinger’s new book Design Forward show. Back in 1982, the then 28-year-old Steve Jobs wanted to unify the company’s look, setting up the Snow White design competition – which yielded up three concepts.

Concept 1 (above) was – ironically – described as “what Sony would do it if built computers.” How times change.

Concept 2 (above) was referred to as “Americana,” drawing inspiration from classic American designs to create a more streamlined affair. We’re not sure that tall, thin display would have worked terribly well, though.

It was Concept 3, Esslinger’s “Baby Mac” design (above), which eventually evolved into the Snow White design language that came to define Apple products throughout the 1980s. Among the more interesting designs conjured up by Esslinger are the “MacPhone” at the top of this article – which would make an awesome iPad dock – and the dual-screen Apple Workstation below.

[Design Forward via designboom]

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Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home