Macs Of The Future Past

Old Apple designs from nearly 30 years ago are strikingly prescient about modern-day Apple design.

Harmut Esslinger’s “Americana” Apple computer design.

Before Jony Ive, candy-colored iMacs, sterling white iPods, and cold aluminum iPhones and iPads, there was the Snow White design language created by Hartmut Esslinger’s Frogdesign, which defined Apple products from the mid-1980s until 1990. In his new book Design Forward, Esslinger details some of his design process for Apple, revealing prototypes and mock-ups that never quite became reality.

Esslinger’s “Baby Mac,” today’s iMac.

Though some of them are scarily close to real — you can see some of the DNA of today’s iMac in Esslinger’s “baby Mac design” from 1985, particularly in the flat stand that the display rests on. More fascinating though, are the rejected designs: The above, vaguely menacing design whose black-and-steel color palette echoes modern-day Apple is meant to “express ‘Americana,’ reconnecting high-tech design with classical American design statements,” like the Coke bottle. In another, similar design, Esslinger created a mockup of “what Sony would do if it built computers” — a design exercise Apple would repeat again when when creating the iPhone.

The “Tablet Mac,” designed in 1982.

And of course, no excavation of ancient Apple design would be complete without an archaic Apple tablet and its keyboard.

Dozens more of these old prototypes are at Design Boom, and they are utterly fantastic — particularly Esslinger’s Snow White “Macintosh studies” from 1982:

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