MacPhone and more early Apple designs detailed in new book, ‘Design Forward’

By , Dec 28, 2012

Early Apple designs (image 001)

The Apple v. Samsung trial in August was a real treasure trove of information that gave us a peek behind the curtain and into Apple’s design process. But what about some of Apple’s early product designs that never came to fruition? Industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger and his upcoming new book titled ‘Design Forward’ offers an interesting glimpse into Apple products that never were.

In it, you’ll find ten original photographs depicting designs for various computers Apple was researching at the time, including one for a tablet and another for a phone hybrid called the Macphone. We’ve got images right after the break…

Designboom (via The Verge) offers several excerpts and photos from the book. Hartmut throughout his career worked with the likes of Wega, Louis Vuitton, Sony, SAP and of course Apple and Steve Jobs.

Early Apple designs (image 002)
Apple considered the MacPhone in 1984, right before the Macintosh was launched.

Early Apple designs (image 003)
The Snow White 2 concept from 1982 would express ‘americana’ and was aimed at “reconnecting high-tech design with classical american design statements”.

Early Apple designs (image 004)
The ‘Baby Mac’ concept from 1985 was Hartmut’s “ticket for a voyage toward
a mysterious destination”. It would eventually become the winner.

Frog Design, a San Francisco-based design shop, was established way back in 1969. The company started out as ‘Esslinger Design’ when Hartmut Essslinger opened a studio in the Black Forest of Germany along with Andreas Haug and Georg Spreng “to promote the concept of emotional design”.

In 1982, the firm partners with Apple to help create the Apple IIc, which was later inducted into the design collection of the Whitney Museum and got voted Time Magazine’s “Design of the Year”. Frog’s Apple IIc design paved the way for Apple’s Snow White design language.

The official web site offers a quick backgrounder on the Apple partnership:

It was precisely this mix that appealed to top executive Steve Jobs back in 1981, when he began searching for the elusive magic that would give Apple a market edge. Back then, computing was a sea of anonymous beige boxes. Jobs combed the world for a strategy-focused design company – and found it in Esslinger’s team.

A multimillion-dollar deal was struck, enticing Esslinger Design to establish a California office. A few years later, the Apple IIc was launched with great fanfare. The design was named “Design of the Year” by Time Magazine and inducted into the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of Art. Apple’s revenue soared from $700 million in 1982 to $4 billion in 1986.

With the move to Northern California, they changed the name to Frog Design, an acronym of Federal Republic Of Germany.

I like their work on the Apple IIc, but surely am glad as hell Apple axed the Macphone and canned that tablet design. Of course, Apple never really gave up on tablet computing.

In 1987, the company unveiled the Newton MessagePad pocket computer (Jonathan Ive designed the second-generation MessagePad110, seen below). Even though it had handwriting recognition and was in many ways ahead of its time, that device was short-lived as Jobs axed it right upon his return from exile in 1996.

Newton MessagePad 110 (image 001)

Nearly a decade later, Jobs was toying with a prototype touchscreen surface that he could type on.

He’d later share an anecdote at the WSJ’s D8 conference of how one of the team members showed him the rubber-band scrolling and immediately he thought to himself: “Oh my God, we could make a phone out of this”.

“When we got our wind back and thought we could take on something next, we pulled the tablet off the shelf, took everything we learned from the phone and went to work on the tablet”, he said.

The rest is history.

Designboom has a bunch of images of other strange Apple products that never were so hit the source link for more.

Design Forward is available for pre-order from Amazon and is set to ship January 16, 2013.

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • http://twitter.com/pketelaar Patrick Ketelaar

    Newton came out in 1993. Project started in 1987. The picture is of a newton messagepad 100, not the MessagePad 110.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jajidejumbo Justin Koopmann

    The Baby Mac actually looks pretty cool