Esslinger was born in Beuren, Germany. At age 25, he finished his studies at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd. In 1969 he started his own design firm, later renamed frog design, where his work for Wega, Sony, Apple and others won him international recognition. After selling frog, he returned to his roots as a designer ambassador. He is a founding Professor of the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe, Germany and since 2006 Professor for convergent industrial design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. In 1996, Esslinger was awarded an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts by the Parsons School of Design, New York City. Since 2012 Esslinger has served as a DeTao Master of Industrial Design with The DeTao Masters Academy in Shanghai.