Modern Bio: Richard Sapper

Modern Decor

His name might not be as well-known as our previous two modern bio subjects (Philippe Starck and Frank Gehry), but that doesn’t make Richard Sapper any less influential. He’s considered one of the most important and iconic industrial designers of his generation, contributing designs to a number of different fields, winning numerous awards and giving his talent to many of the top design brands out there–some of which 2Modern offers.

German-born but based out of Milan, Italy, Richard’s designs were simple, modern but also with a bit of cleverness that really showed off a great design personality. What people don’t realize is how much of his work contributed to the future of design, or what we consider to be designs we can’t live without today. Many of his creations were the precursors to designs we take for granted. (Like how phones have that clamshell, flip open design? Yeah he was the first person to design that.)

Bulleted history:

  • Born 1932 in Munich
  • Sapper relocates to Milan in 1958 where he  joins the offices of architect Gio Ponti and the design department of La Rinascente.
  • Partners with Italian architect and designer Marco Zanuso (a partnership that will go on for 18 years) in 1959.
  • Becomes a consultant to Brionvega, an Italian well-designed electronics company in 1959.
  • Starts his own independent studio in 1959.
  • Wins his first Compasso d’Oro prize in 1959
  • Collaborates with Siemens and Italtel in 1965.
  • In 1964, Sapper (with Zanuso) designs the supernaturally lightweight K1340 for Kartell, a stacking children’s chair and the first chair made entirely of plastic.
  • Sapper designs the classic Tizio lamp for Artemide in 1972.
  • In 1972, forms a study group for the development of new urban transportation systems with architect Gae Aulenti.
  • Appointed principal industrial design consultant at IBM in 1980. 
  • Currently oversees ThinkPad brand as design consultant to Lenovo since May 2005.
  • Awarded a lifetime achievement award for his design work by the German Design Coucil in 2009 .
  • Given an Honorary Doctor degree from the University of North Carolina in 2010.

Work of note:

  • Static table clock for Lorenz 1959
  • Rounded, compact and portable Doney 14, the first television to feature completely transistorized construction 1962 
  • K1340 stacking children’s chair for Kartell, the first ever chair made entirely in plastic 1964
  • Radio TS502 1965
  • Grillo telephone, the first telephone featuring the flip-down mouthpiece, for Siemens and Italtel 1965
  • Tizio lamp for Artemide, one of the first desk lamps using halogen bulbs with low-voltage current conducting arms to eliminate the need for wires 1972
  • Stop watches for Heuer 1976
  • Stove-top espresso maker 9090 for Alessi 1978
  • Sapper Office Chair series for Knoll 1979
  • Nena folding chair for B&B Italia 1984
  • Two-note whistling water kettle Bollitore for Alessi 1984
  • Bandung teapotfor Alessi 1990
  • ThinkPad 700C 1992
  • Coban espresso machine for Alessi 1997
  • Cheese grater Todo for Alessi 2006
  • Cintura di orione cookware series for Alessi 1986 and 2009

Own a piece of his work:
2Modern now sells Artemide, which means you can take home one of his classic Tizio Classic Table Lamps (or Tizio Micro Table Lamps) today!

Images: Main Industrial Design; upid 2010; bonluxat and wikipedia
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  1. amourette

    Nov 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Loving this bio series!

    • Adrienne Breaux

      Nov 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      So glad to hear! We’re trying to do one every week so stay tuned next week for the next one in the series!

  2. Ahmad

    Nov 5, 2011 at 8:29 am

    very nice designs! he should have a gallery of his own.

    I second @amourette on the bio series :)

  3. bminimal

    Nov 9, 2011 at 10:45 am

    After completing my undergrad studies, the very first home accessory item that I bought for myself was a Tizio lamp. It was a huge investment for a girl right out of design school but I knew it was a classic…It still sits on my drafting table and to this day…many years later and many purchases later, one of my favorite pieces..great bio!

    • Adrienne Breaux

      Nov 10, 2011 at 9:10 am

      I love it! And I love that it’s still with you today.

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