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Richard Sapper

Richard Sapper

Germany (1932-2015)
Headshot of designer.

The Tizio lamp (1972) has probably made an appearance on the desks of more architects and designers than any other object since the lead pencil. Richard Sapper, its designer, provided a model for product design that combines the rational approach and technical sophistication of his German homeland with Italian flair and originality. After receiving an engineering degree from the University of Munich, Sapper began work for Mercedes-Benz and then moved to Italy to work in the design studio of Alberto Roselli and Gio Ponti.

In 1959, he received a Compasso d’Oro for his Static table clock, subsequently collaborated with Marco Zanuso and finally opened his own design office in Stuttgart in 1970. He continued, however, to team with Zanuso and together they produced a number of notable products including a plastic child’s chair for Kartell that doubled as a construction toy. They also created the highly styled Doney television for Brionvega, a sewing machine for Necchi and the Grillo folding telephone. These products represented state of the art technology, elegantly housed and designed to convey function with a visual clarity that was eloquently modern.

The Tizio lamp, created for Artemide, was matte black and minimal in form and operated in a completely new way. It was equipped with an inner balancing mechanism that allowed users to alter its position by the lightest touch of the hand. It won the Compasso d’Oro in 1979. In 1980, Sapper became a consultant for IBM and is credited with the design of the Thinkpad laptop in 1992.

He lent post-modern inflections to his high-tech style to create designs for Alessi, including the 9090 espresso maker and the 9091 teakettle, which features a two-note whistle in place of the shrill variety found on typical models. Sapper was a versatile designer who could create compelling, solution-oriented designs for the most sophisticated products yet respond to the simpler challenges of everyday objects like a set of flatware or a child’s chair.

Richard Sapper

Tizio Desk Lamp
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