Dan Harden on interning with George Nelson, growing Frog with Hartmut Esslinger, Whipsaw, and the future of design

A conversation with Dan Harden and Nicholas Baker of the Minor Details podcast

September 25, 2023

Dan Harden of Whipsaw recently sat down with Nicholas Baker of the Minor Details podcast. Their conversation covered stories from Dan’s nearly 40-year career as a professional designer. Topics included highlights from Dan’s influences and collaborators, notably George Nelson and Steve Jobs, design impact, sustainability and responsibility, and the future of the design profession.

Dan, CEO and Principal Designer of Whipsaw, founded the Whipsaw in 1999. Since its inception, Whipsaw has helped bring over 1000 products to market for clients ranging from startups to large Fortune 100s. Dan is not only a highly active creative force but also a luminary in the field of design. Dan’s work and the brand are deeply influenced by his passion, experience, and personal philosophies on art, culture, psychology, and technology.

Early Frog designs

Forming a Design Philosophy

Dan’s design philosophy has been honed over an extraordinary journey through design. His catalog of experiences is mind-boggling. An early internship with George Nelson in New York. Tenure as VP and President of Frog Design alongside renowned designer Hartmut Esslinger. Collaborations with Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, and Rupert Murdoch. And finally, 24 years as founder, CEO, and Principal at Whipsaw. Dan’s perspective is broad and deep. In reflecting on his philosophy, Dan highlights the intricate equilibrium between artistry and functionality, underscoring the crucial role of designers, who serve as both problem solvers and storytellers while addressing the client’s needs.

From top left clockwise: Dropcam, Whipsaw studio, Brita Stream, Tonal

Charting the Course for Design’s Future

Looking towards the future, Dan remains cautiously optimistic about design and humanity. He is inspired by the uncharted potential of emerging technologies such as AI and quantum computing. His vision goes beyond the confines of mere technological advancement by emphasizing the enduring value of collective consciousness, creativity, and empathy. These human qualities become the compass by which designers navigate through an evolving technological landscape, ensuring that innovation remains deeply rooted in the human experience.

Listen to the full story on Minor Details

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