Ettore Sottsass

ETTORE SOTTSASS (1917 - 2007) was an architect and industrial designer born in the city of Innsbruck, Austria. He was and continues to be one of the most influential and important figures of the 20th century design scene.

Exposed to the world of architecture since a young age, due to his father himself being an architect, he grew up in Turin where he graduated from the Polytechnic University in 1939 before serving in the military during World War II and spending several years in a labor camp in Yugoslavia. After returning home, he worked in his father’s studio renovating buildings that were destroyed during the war, before deciding to find his own practice in Milan to focus on working with different means such as ceramics, painting and interior design.

In Milan, he immersed himself in the vibrant cultural landscape that characterizes the city, attending the literary salon that would allow him to meet with the most illustrious architects and designers of his time. This is where he met, and later married, writer and translator Fernanda Pivano. She introduced him to the literary society of the city and to many writers and artists that would later influence his work beyond his initial approach to industrial design.

During his early years, he was first a member of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus and later moved briefly to New York City to work with industrial designer and modernist George Nelson. He was then commissioned an exhibition of ceramic works by entrepreneur Irving Richards, a project he had been pursuing since the beginning of his career that quickly launched him into international recognition for his originality and creativity.

His breakthrough came when Adriano Olivetti hired him as a design consultant in 1958 for his company Olivetti, the most important typewriter and computer manufacturer in Italy, renowned for its incredibly advanced design. For them, he designed several different typewriters, office equipment and furniture. In particular, he developed the first Italian mainframe computer that won him the prestigious Compasso d’Oro prize in 1959. His style began developing more clearly during his time at Olivetti bringing bold colors, form and styling to office equipment, pushing the boundaries between industrial design and pop culture. Moving from his first functional and sober typewriters to the Valentine in 1969, an accessory that became a fashion statement in the Italian society, thanks to which he gained fame and recognition as an innovative and disruptive product designer, not afraid to break the schemes and go beyond functionality and form.

(Source: Artemest)