FROGDESIGN (1969) German international design firm

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Apple IIc developed by frog design group
Apple IIc computer, the first Apple product to employ all the attributes of the ‘Snow White’ design language developed by Hartmut Esslinger’s frog design group

Artificial environment more human

Frogdesign is a global design studio with offices in Altensteig, Germany, Campbell, California (since 1982), and Tokyo (since 1986). Frogdesign was founded in 1969 by Hartmut Esslinger (the frog in the firm’s name is an acronym for the Federal Republic of Germany). Frogdesign made a global impact in the 1980s by virtue of its products’ visual expressiveness and ergonomic success, traits that attracted an extensive and prestigious client list—Apple Computer, American Telephone and Telegraph (no. 400), RCA, Eastman Kodak, Polaroid, Motorola, and General Electric in the United States; AEG, ERCO, Koenig & Neurath, Philips, and Louis Vuitton in Europe; and Matsushita, NEC, Olympus, Seiko and Sony Corporation in Japan.

Wega Modul 42C, 1978-80
Wega Modul 42C, 1978-80

Hartmut Esslinger (b. 1944) Biography

Esslinger studied electrical engineering at the University of Stuttgart and industrial design at the Fachhochschule Schwabisch Gmund. He won the German Bundespreis Gute Form for a portable radio in 1969.

Computer for NeXT workstation designed by Hartmut Esslinger
Computer for NeXT workstation designed by Hartmut Esslinger

Wega, a West German electronics company (owned by Sony since 1975), was his first client, for whom he designed colour televisions, stereos, and accessories in 1971, earning the company a reputation for sleek, innovative electronics design; the line also brought Esslinger additional commissions, including the Sony Trinitron television. The off-white Apple II personal computer (no. 383) was featured on the cover of Time magazine as “design of the year” in 1984, with the companion Scribe and Imagewriter printers later praised for their good design by Industrial Design magazine. Frogdesigns are calculated as user experiences, from snub-snouted frollerskates for Indusco to an aggressive black computer monitor for Jobs’s NeXT, Inc. “The goal of design is to make our artificial world more human,” Esslinger remarked. My objective has always been and will continue to be to design mainstream objects as works of art.


Hiesinger, K. B., & Marcus, G. H. (1995). Landmarks of twentieth-century design: an illustrated handbook. Abbeville Press.

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