The Missing Esslinger

The Missing Esslinger

As they say, the search continues, yet the journey stemming from an inspiration has yielded results.


Hartmut Esslinger1 caught my imagination during NID2  days, way back in mid 1980's. As students, we would spend hours at NID's Resource Center (library), reading rare periodicals like DESIGN, ID and FORM. These magazines were our windows to Design in the western world (remember, there was no Google, those days). Esslinger & his firm, FROG, represented the epitome of design flow. He was enigmatic and the work being done by frog was an inspiration. Young FROG, a student initiative by FROG was to be ogled & drooled over, and the little haiku3 quotes were the seeds for our day to day philosophy & debates. 

As students, we would wait for the next periodical to arrive with the latest FROG creation. We dreamt of designing Skate Boots, Computer Work Station’s, Walkman's, all fired up by the 6 month old news provided by the “customs approved , imported & late arrival edition” of ID, Design or FORM magazine.

Stepping out of NID, armed with a graduate diploma in Industrial Design, I quickly discovered that there were no Skate Boots to design. There were no Macintoshes or Walkman's in India. India presented a different opportunity to look at design, playing to an unexplored field of functional needs of a developing nation. We had basic concerns about water, energy, health , hygiene, productivity that needed attention. Design business had to survive in a fledging economy by proving itself. The “Esslinger dream”quickly became an enigmatic inspiration of what an ugly Elephant4 could transform into one day.


27 years later, I was recently invited to speak at International Design Congress, 2015, at Gwangju, Korea. I scanned the list of key speakers and found Dr. Hartmut Esslinger, founder, FROG5 was speaking on day 2. This got me super excited. Listening to Esslinger was the closest, I would come to my Esslinger dream as a student. I grabbed my 2kg copy of Esslinger's latest book Design Forwardand lugged it all the way to Gwangju. The thought of listening to Esslinger live, getting my copy of his book autographed sentKimchi6 textured goose bumps all over me. I even included a quote by Esslinger in my talk at the conference.

Dr. Esslinger never arrived. No one explained. I re-read a few lines from his book after two days of carrying his book in my back pack and set it down into my luggage for its journey back to India.

May be, I thought, the journey is still incomplete. It began 30 years ago as an inspiring dream, morphed into co-founding anElephant4. Till today, the search continues for the missing Esslinger.

Maybe, one day,

                    "The old pond,

a frog jumps:

                    Plop!” – Bashô 7

the sound waves & ripples might lead our Elephant to find the Frog.

1.     Dr Hartmut Esslinger, Industrial Designer, founder FROG
2.     NID, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India
3.     "Haiku" is a traditional form of Japanese poetry
4.     Elephant, is India’s premier design consulting firm
5.     Frog, is a global design and innovation firm founded in 1969 by industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger
6.     Kimchi, a vegetable side dish in Korea
7.     Haiku Poem by Bashô quoted by FROG

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a member of India Design Council & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others.

Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context : Design for Real Needs, at the

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