Designer: Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass is a leading Italian designer renowned for his spiritual and sensory approach to design and architecture. He is the founder of the famous Memphis group.


Sottsass is a particularly prolific designer; he has created a multitude of pieces with a particular emphasis on colour, light and form. He has created design icons such as the Asteroid lamp (1968), the Carlton bookcase (1981), the Westside chair (1983) and the Ospité table (1984). As you can see below, his creations are truly original and demonstrate his visionary eye.


Asteroid Lamp © Georges Meguerditchian – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist. RMN-GP © Adagp, Paris


Carlton Library ©


Westwide Headquarters ©


Ospité dining table


ettore-sottsass-designer Ettore Sottsass was born in 1917 in Austria. In 1929, he moved to Italy with his family and studied architecture like his father, the great architect Ettore Sottsass Sr. The young designer quickly distinguished himself by his curiosity and his pronounced taste for the arts; he was fascinated by painting, sculpture, drawing and photography. He finished his studies in Turin in 1939, worked for a while with his father and then founded his own studio in Milan in 1947. Sottsass then developed numerous and impressive professional skills: he was an artist, designer, architect, consultant for design companies, editor and publisher of magazines! In 1956, he left for the United States and joined the agency of the famous George Nelson in New York. This period marked a turning point in his career as it was here that he discovered the practices linking industrialists to artists. Some time later, Sottsass returned to Milan and obtained the position of artistic director at the company specialising in furniture design, Poltronova.

In 1958, Adriano Olivetti decided to offer him the position of consultant designer. Sottsass designed the first Italian computer Elea 9003 (1959 ) with Perotto Pier Giorgio, typewriters such as the Valentine model (1969) with Perry A. King and many other extraordinary creations.


Elea 9003 computer (1959) © / Valentine typewriter (1969) ©

Curious and ingenious, the designer is always looking for change and new innovations! It was in this spirit that he joined the Anti-design movement in the 1960s, a movement that opposed functionalism and rationalism, two visions that were very much in vogue at the time. In 1972, Sottsass became more involved in the international scene by participating in the famous exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape”, organised by the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Design by Ettore Sottsass © CSAC, Università di Parma. Environments and Counter Environments. “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape,” MoMA 1972. Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts.

On December 11, 1980, Ettore Sottsass founded the famous Memphis group.


The Memphis Group © memphisgroup

This group transformed Italian design by overturning the codes of post-Bauhaus design with the introduction of new colours, patterns and other materials such as laminate. The young Memphis designers brought new forms to the creation of lighting and furniture. Through their union, they wanted to open up to fashion and other artistic movements such as Pop Art. Many talents were part of the Memphis group, including Andrea Branzi, Shiro Kuramata, Martine Bedin, Nathalie du Pasquier, and of course Barbara Radice, art critic for the artistic direction. The group ended in 1988.


Ashoka lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis (1981)

Bague-Ettore-SottsassAt the same time, the designer and artist founded his own agency: Sottsass Associati and worked for large international companies such as Apple and Fiat. Inventive, he used very geometric shapes, which until then had been reserved for mathematics and science. He started designing jewellery with the collections “Bijoux d’architectes” (1987) and “La séduction” (2001).
Ettore Sottsass left us on 31 December 2007, leaving behind him a brilliant career that continues to shine on design and the arts today.

Find all Ettore Sottsass’ pieces available on Design Market