Designer Ettore Sottsass dies at 90

Design giant Ettore Sottsass died on Monday at age 90.

Olivetti Valentine Typewriter
Olivetti Valentine Typewriter LA County Musueum of Art

The design world lost a giant on Monday: Ettore Sottsass died at age 90. You may not be that familiar with his work, but I can bet you that he has influenced just about every designer who makes the stuff you buy today.

As is typical of Italian designers, where the fields of architecture and product design are not separated educationally or professionally, Sotssas worked across the domains of office products, ceramics, furniture, tableware, glass, sculpture, and interiors. He was one of the founders of the avant garde Milan-based design group Memphis, who's work still startles twenty years later. Over the decades he has gone through more stylistic personas than David Bowie, and in his later years focused primarily on limited edition sculptures and tablewares.

In a profile in the NY Times a couple of years ago, he stated, "I try to make objects that have a certain strength of communication, objects that vibrate."

Together with Perry A. King he designed one of my all-time favorite objects, the Olivetti Valentine typewriter. He was the lead design consultant for Olivetti, the IBM of Italy, who had a fabled staff of design consultants who established much of the look of technology products in the 1960's and 70's. The Valentine was a portable typewriter in bright red, was introduced on Valentine's day 1969, and has become a design icon.

Read obituary at International Herald Tribune

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About the author

    Adam Richardson is the director of product strategy at frog design, where he guides strategy engagements for frog's international roster of clients, envisioning and creating new products, consumer electronics, and digital experiences. Adam combines a background in industrial design, interaction design, and sociology, and spends most of his time on convergent designs that combine hardware, software, service, brand, and retail. He writes and speaks extensively on design, business, culture, and technology, and runs his own Richardsona blog.

     

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