Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass

Adrienne Breaux
Sep 10, 2012

Designer: Ettore Sottsass, 1917 - 2007
From: Born in Innsbruck, Austria but grew up in Milan, Italy.

Ettore Sottsass' designs are quite intensely unique, but they're also surprisingly clever, deep and an inspiration for many design movements that came after him. They also happen to be remarkably recognizable due to the incredibly bold, jarring design elements that make his work so fun. Seemingly shallow, Ettore was known for using color, shape and material to create strong emotions in the viewers of his furniture design and architecture.


  • Sottsass and a group of young architects and designers from various countries banded together in 1981, forming the design collective the Memphis Group. They launched with a collection of 40 pieces of furniture, ceramics, lighting, glass and textiles.
  • Ettore Sottsass started and ran a wildly popular design consulting firm called Sottsass Associati in 1980. Though mainly for architecture, Sottsass Associati rocked a great many things, including designing stores and showrooms for Esprit, identities for Alessi, exhibitions, interiors, consumer electronics and of course, furniture. They continue to work on design and are based out of London and Milan.
  • Credited with making stylish office equipment popular, he designed a great many office-related things like a bright red plastic portable Valentine typewriter in 1969 for Olivetti.
  • Just a few of his clients through the years: Esprit, Knoll International, Serafino Zani and Alessi.

    Quote: "When I began designing machines I also began to think that these objects, which sit next to each other and around people, can influence not only physical conditions but also emotions. They can touch the nerves, the blood, the muscles, the eyes and the moods of people."

    Attended: Politecnico di Torino in Turin. Graduated in 1939 with a degree in architecture.

    Known for: Fluorescent/neon colors. Glossy, slick surfaces. Odd, angled and lop-sided shapes. Laminate patterns with high contrasts and squiggle shapes. Basically the 1980s in furniture/design form. Post-modernism design and arts to the max. Powerful architecture. Industrial design.

    Representative Pieces Shown Above: (left to right, top to bottom)

    1) Bookcase
    2) Set of Two Multi Colored Laminated Cubes
    3) Pair Ettore Sottsass "Mandarin" Chairs for Knoll International
    4) A "Tahiti" Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis
    5) Mirror by Ettore Sottsass for Glas Italia
    6) Totem
    7) Ettore Sottsass Glass Centerpiece
    8) A Memphis ''Don'' Desk Lamp designed by Ettore Sottsass
    9) Memphis Porcelain Nilo Vase
    10) Unique Stool

    Sottsass On the Web:

  • Sottsass Associati
  • Wikipedia Entry
  • The New York Times obituary for Ettore Sottsass
  • Ettore Sottsass on 1stdibs

    Images: Ettore Sottsass on 1stdibs

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