Hartmut Esslinger

Ushering in an era of emotional design in response to the mostly function-oriented products of the day (read our article about functionalist Dieter Rams, Hartmut Esslinger founded Esslinger Design in the Black Forest of Germany in 1969.

The firm became internationally known for its work for German electronics brand WEGA when he created the first “full plastics” color TV and HiFi series “Wega system 3000”. In 1974, Esslinger was hired by Sony (Sony also acquired Wega shortly after) and was instrumental in creating a global design image for the Japanese company, especially with the Sony Trinitron and personal music products as the Walkman.

Hartmut’s products also caught the eye of Steve Jobs. In 1982 a multimillion-dollar deal was signed and Esslinger Design arrived in California with a new name: Frog Design. The “Snow White” design language for Apple was applied to all product lines from 1984 to 1990 (commencing with the Apple IIc and including the Macintosh computer). The design was recognized by Time Magazine as the “Design of the Year” in 1985.

Other major client engagements include Lufthansa’s global design and brand strategy, SAP’s corporate identity and software user interface, Microsoft Windows branding and user interface design, Siemens, NEC, Olympus, HP, Motorola and General Electric.


Esslinger is a founding Professor of the Hochschule fuer Gestaltung in Karlsruhe, Germany and since 2006 he is a Professor for convergent industrial design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. In 1996, Esslinger was awarded an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts by the Parsons School of Design, New York City. Since 2012 Esslinger has served as a DeTao Master of Industrial Design with The Beijing DeTao Masters Academy (DTMA) in Shanghai, China.

Alex Iervolino,
Designer, ROUE Watch.