The life and times of the Apple Macintosh

The latest insert describing the decades in design credits frogdesign/Hartmut Esslinger with the design of the Apple Macintosh, and I can’t let this untruth pass by.

The original Mac (as we call it on this side of the ocean), the Apple Macintosh 512K Personal Computer, was introduced in January 1984. The product/industrial designer was Jerry Manock. But there were lots of others who contributed to the “design”.

Steve Jobs was the project director; Mike Boich the software evangelist; Donn Denman, software engineer; Andy Hertzfeld, engineer; Johanna Hoffman, user interface designer; Dave Egner, engineer; Susan Kare, software graphic designer. The designer/ illustrator of the Mac logo was John Casado, and Tom Hughes was the designer/art director for the packaging. Clement Mok was the designer of the celebrated instructions and user manuals with Chris Espinosa. This is by no means all the people involved in the design of this product.

It should be emphasised that the design of the first Macintosh was a turning point. It was the first very successful product where the sophistication of the technology was matched by the sophistication of the product design, the user interface, the applications software, the instructions and the graphics. In addition, without such a team of specialists working together to create this revolutionary product, the graphic design business as well as much of the imagery after 1985 would not be what it is today. Indeed, this product gave birth to the understanding of the idea of user-friendliness and the need for specialists to work together in teams. (The credits are from Richard Sexton’s 1987 book American Style.)

For the record, in 1982 Esslinger Design opened a second studio in Campbell, California (the first was in Germany), renamed frogdesign. Then Esslinger met Steve Jobs. According to the article “frogdesign: a visual history”, in frogdesign’s own magazine RANA Number 1, Esslinger was hired to give a common look to Apple’s computers. At the time there were seven products in the line or under development. Taking inspiration from the fairytale with seven dwarves, the design language that unified the seven products came to be known as Snow White. The first product to appear in the language was the Apple IIc. The c stood for compact, compatible and cuddly. This product and the ones that followed under the Apple name do not bear any resemblance to the Mac. The company worked for Apple until 1986.

If anyone cares, the American patent for the personal computer is held by Jack Frassanito, an industrial design graduate of Art Center College of Design. It was issued to him on 25 July 1972 for a machine that is the direct lineal ancestor of the PC as we know it. At the time, he was employed at Datapoint in San Antonio, Texas, and the product was the Datapoint 2200. Jack has a design office in Houston and was one of the industrial designers working at Loewy on the first inhabited vehicle NASA sent into space. His design office continues to work for it today as an outside vendor, through the Johnson Space Center also in Houston.

RitaSue Siegel


RitaSue Siegel Resources

New York

United States

So now you know – Ed.

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