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Upon approaching the only modern house on this secluded street in Los Gatos, it is obvious where the automotive loyalties of the owner lie. Behind the glass door of the garage sits an eye-catching Speed Yellow Porsche 911 Carrera S with California plates bearing the moniker “Frogmut.” “FROG” for the international #design firm and “MUT” for #hartmutesslinger, its founder.
Not one for privacy, Mr. Esslinger? “I like to see my #porsche when I come home,” murmurs the German native in his Black Forest–infused English. He sits on a chair by Danish designer Arne Jacobsen in his house in Silicon Valley and sips his espresso. For the past twenty years, Esslinger has lived here with his wife, Patricia Roller, with whom he jointly ran frog #design for about as long. Their children have since moved out, and two years ago the couple finally redesigned their home. “It’s a bit of Bauhaus and a bit of Frank Lloyd Wright,” Esslinger explains.
frog #design: an institution of revolutionary product design
And, of course, a bit of Esslinger. After all, the man of the house is a leading industrial designer and founder of an institution of revolutionary product #design. Esslinger originally established Esslinger #design in Mutlangen, Germany, near Stuttgart, in 1969, but renamed the company frog #design thirteen years later. With his legendary designs, success came rather quickly: the Tribel showerhead created for Hansgrohe in 1974 was a huge success, selling fifteen million units. The black box #design for Sony’s Trinitron TV brought an end to the era of wood paneling in the entertainment electronics industry.
Esslinger’s vision has shaped the products of countless international companies—including Disney, Louis Vuitton, Lufthansa, Microsoft, Olympus, and SAP. But sleek #design was not the only way he accumulated such a prominent customer base. Esslinger has long advocated the idea that #design should not just be artful packaging, but rather must be a strategic component of every company. It is the lifelong philosophy of an unconventional thinker who, frustratedwith the “idea of beautification and the elitist chatter of many of my fellow students,” never completed his university studies.
Design should express the soul of a product
No one took Esslinger’s message to heart more than Apple founder Steve Jobs, who called Esslinger to California in 1982. The German innovator was brought in to help Jobs with the development of a #design and color concept that would distinguish the computer company from the rest of the industry. Together, Jobs and Esslinger developed “Snow White,” a #design language that defined the appearance of Apple computers for years. His work for Apple was the start of not only Esslinger and frog’s global renown, but also the lifelong friendship of two nonconformists known for their unvarnished candidness.
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