Richard Sapper passed away on New Year’s eve at the age of 83. In his 60 years long career the industrial designer masterminded iconic products for Brionvega, Alessi, Artemide and Kartell but also conceptual FIAT cars and even a ship.
Born in Munich in 1932, Richard Sapper based is home and business in Milan working with some of the most important Italian brands. He won international design awards including 10 Compasso D’Oro, the most important prize for Italian design.
Richard Sapper worked first for the architect Gio Ponti, and then in the design division of “La Rinascente”. After founding his own studio, he began to collaborate with Marco Zanuso with whom created some of the most famous designs of his career including the iconic portable TVs and radios for Brionvega.
Sapper’s designs range from Tizio lamp for Artemide to kitchenware like the 9090 espresso maker and 9091 water kettle for Alessi. For Kartell, the designer created with Zanuso K1340, the first chair in the world to be entirely produced in plastic.
Sapper was engaged as a consultant on the development of experimental automobiles for FIAT and on pneumatic structures for Pirelli, producing the concept for a car with a flexible skin designed to reduce impact in collisions. With Italian architect Gae Aulenti he explored new transportation systems with the objective of reducing inner-city congestion.
Since 1980, Sapper has acted as chief industrial design consultant for IBM and later for Lenovo, supervising the design of the company’s personal computers worldwide. He created the design for the very first ThinkPad laptop computer in 1992, as well as the long series of models that followed.
Sapper’s black-box laptops and monitors mark an important step in computer design. Even Steve Job asked him to work at Apple, but he declined the offer. A choice he would later regret.
Sapper’s work is showcased at the MoMA of New York, and the Triennale in Milan. He generously shared his knowledge at Yale University, Domus Academy and other internationally renown schools and universities of design and architecture.