Mac design consultant explains Apple’s edge

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Hartmut Esslinger, who helped design the original Macintosh 25 years ago, says many tech companies still don’t get one of the keys to Apple’s success.

“Design doesn’t stand alone, it’s a coordinated profession. People think it’s about beauty, but it’s really about connected technology, science, people and business. A lot of stuff doesn’t sell because it’s designed for the engineer,” he said this morning at a [Churchill Club]( event here.

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Esslinger had worked earlier at Sony which helped him get in the door at Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and gain the confidence of ultra-picky CEO Steve Jobs, beating out an ad agency in the process for his then small company, the legendary [Frog Design](

“We talked about design and I asked Steve what he wanted to do with the Mac. He said he wanted a million people to use it, not 10,000,” Esslinger recalled. (*Photo by David Needle*)

A million personal computers was considered big time mass market back then.

“He didn’t like our design in the beginning, but he’s the best learner in world,” Esslinger recalled, noting the Mac’s design was meant to convey the feeling of California — “sexy, young and dynamic.”

**Say hello to my little friend**

He added the idea was to design the Mac to look like a person, to create “a little friend.”

While Jobs is routinely criticized for a dictatorial, my way or the highway, style, Esslinger said strong company leadership is important. He noted at Sony it took much longer to get ideas approved because it was a bottoms up process.

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“At Apple it’s top down and things happen right away,” he said. “A lot of people totally underestimate how important leadership is. Look at the iPhone, that shows someone who really cares.”

**Dinging Dell’s design**

The event format was a Q&A with entrepreneur and original Apple evangelist [Guy Kawasaki]( who asked why companies like Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), with tons of money, can’t match Apple’s aesthetic — actually he asked why their computers “look like crap.”

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