Famed Designer Richard Sapper Was Once Recruited by Steve Jobs

In an interview with design magazine Dezeen, German industrial designer Richard Sapper revealed that he was once recruited by Steve Jobs to do design work for Apple. The interview doesn't specify when the recruitment happened, but it could have been in the early 80's when Apple was just starting out, or in the mid-90's after Jobs returned to the company.

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Jobs once wanted to hire me to do the design of Apple [computers] but the circumstances weren't right because I didn't want to move to California and I had very interesting work here that I didn't want to abandon. Also, at that time Apple was not a great company, it was just a small computer company. They were doing interesting things so I was very interested, of course, but I had an exclusivity contract with IBM.
The 81-year old Sapper has been designing products for nearly 60 years, including lamps, phones, radios, coffee makers and an IBM ThinkPad notebook.

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18 months ago
I'm pretty sure the ThinkPad's design hasnt changed since the 80's :cool:
Rating: 6 Votes
18 months ago

On the fifth row, second from right, is a clock face that looks suspiciously like that Swiss Federal Railways clock, that was in the news around November of last year.


It is the Swiss Railways clock, in watch form. But this was just a watch he owned, he had nothing to do with the design.

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“at that time Apple was not a great company, it was just a small computer company.”

He wasn't a passionate visionary artist, he was just a worker. You don't join a startup company because is big and powerful, you join a startup company because you love the dream too.

I can imagine (even if he's millionaire today) how bad that sentence sounds today.


That's a bit harsh on him, since there could have been many reasons for him to decline joining Apple. Steve might have failed to convince him that Apple's vision was worth working for. Or his style of design was different to how Apple wanted their design.

Looking at Thinkpads, they are of a different philosophy to Macbooks. One's utilitarian and a workhorse, the other is sleek and modern. Both are some of the best designs in laptops thus far, but for entirely different reasons.
Rating: 4 Votes
18 months ago

The ThinkPad has got to be one of the ugliest laptops in the history of computing. Thank God IBM had an exclusivity deal with this guy.


The ThinkPad looked great for 1992.

It hasn't aged so well, though.
Rating: 3 Votes
18 months ago
This sound like one of those "guy who declined to manage the Beatles" stories.
Rating: 3 Votes
18 months ago


Looking at Thinkpads, they are of a different philosophy to Macbooks. One's utilitarian and a workhorse, the other is sleek and modern. Both are some of the best designs in laptops thus far, but for entirely different reasons.


Agreed. The ThinkPad is an incredibly good design.

I have learnt however that MacRumors is the worst place to discuss design. Just look at the panning the Phillipe Starck yacht or the Ruth Asawa fountain got.

Both beautiful things in their own ways, but not 2mm thick aluminium slabs designed by a certain Brit, so immediately dismissed by those who prefer to be told what they like.

(And before I get destroyed - I think the design of my MacBooks and iPods are beautiful. But the only and best (there's no such thing - design is not a race) style in which something should be designed? Absolutely not.)
Rating: 3 Votes
18 months ago

The ThinkPad looked great for 1992.

It hasn't aged so well, though.


I suppose. But, yeah, it never evolved. It basically stayed the same forever. The Lenovo ones still look like they were made 15 years ago.
Rating: 3 Votes
18 months ago
The ThinkPad has got to be one of the ugliest laptops in the history of computing. Thank God IBM had an exclusivity deal with this guy.
Rating: 2 Votes
18 months ago

His story is consistent and seems believable. Why would he make that up?
Here http://www.google.ca/search?q=richard+sapper+design&safe=off&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=nWXCUdaKKYWCyQGQoIBA&ved=0CFYQsAQ&biw=1543&bih=878 are some of Sapper's designs.

On the fifth row, second from right, is a clock face that looks suspiciously like that Swiss Federal Railways clock, that was in the news around November of last year.


The Swiss railway clock, as we know it now, was designed by Hans Hilfiker in 1953. It more complicated than it seems (all clocks are synchronised because when the CFF tells you the train leaves at 0714 they'll be damned if the doors aren't closing at 0740:01).
Rating: 1 Votes
18 months ago

I suppose. But, yeah, it never evolved. It basically stayed the same forever. The Lenovo ones still look like they were made 15 years ago.

Lenovo is not a design company, or even innovative. Lenovo is a cheap box-shifter.

He was a fool for not going to Apple.

Hindsight is 20:20 vision :rolleyes:

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Looking at Thinkpads, they are of a different philosophy to Macbooks. One's utilitarian and a workhorse, the other is sleek and modern. Both are some of the best designs in laptops thus far, but for entirely different reasons.

Wasn't the ThinkPad originally introduced in 1992 when Apple's PowerBooks looked like this:
Rating: 1 Votes
18 months ago
Say all you want, but the Thinkpad design is a classic. It also happens to be one of the most comfortable laptops to use, more than any other laptop (and I am including Mac).

Too bad IBM sold it all to Lenovo, it went downhill since...
Rating: 1 Votes

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