Artists & Designers

Ettore Sottsass, Jr. (1917-2007)

Ettore Sottsass was an Italian architect and designer, born in Austria in 1917 but raised in Milan, Italy, where his father was an architect. He graduated from the Politechnico di Torino in 1939 with a degree in architecture and then served in the Italian military in WWII, with a significant amount of time spent in a concentration camp in Yugoslavia. Upon his return home in 1948, he founded his own architectural and industrial design studio in Milan. In 1956 he began working as a design consultant for Olivetti, designing office equipment, typewriters, and furniture. It was there that he made a name for himself, bringing office equipment into the realm of popular culture through color, form, and style. Throughout the 1960s, Sottsass developed a range of objects inspired by his travels in the US and India, including large altar-like ceramic sculptures and his "Superboxes," covered in bold and colorful custom laminates that became the precursor to the Memphis movement. In 1970, he designed the now well-known bright red plastic Valentine portable typewriter, which became more a design statement than office equipment. By 1981 he founded a Milan-based design collective called the Memphis Group, which became well-known for innovative design and brightly colored postmodern furniture, lighting, and ceramics..

Adapted from

DMA unpublished material.

Web Resources

  • Vimeo
    Watch a short video called the Life and Times of Ettore Sottsass.

  • MoMA
    See Sottsass's Valentine Portable Typewriter.

  • New York Times
    Read the obituary of iconic designer Ettore Sottsass.