“The time is one of the few things that can define the quality of an object”
To summarize his great career and outstanding contribution that Richard Sapper has been able to give to Italian design, it is sufficient to remember the motivation with which in 2014 was awarded the Compasso D’oro for his career, his eleventh, “For having joined the German thoroughness, and ingenuity in designing a multitude of great products and great success in areas very distant from each other”.
Born in Germany may 30, 1932, after a degree in economics, his career began at the styling department of Mercedes-Benz and then continue on to Milan, where he moved in 1958. Here he began to work in the studio of Gio Ponti, then in the design department of La rinascente and in 1960 he began a lasting and fruitful collaboration with the architect Marco Zanuso.
The two initially working as a consultant designer for the Italian electronic company Brionvega, for which they designed the radio Cubo TS502 and the tv Algol. The plastic takes the place of the fine materials, the shells are colored in the shades, gaudy, rounded edges and different components are simplified, helping the mass to familiarize themselves with the technology products on the market for a few years.
Radio CuboTS502, 1964 Brionvega, designed with Marco Zanuso
Tv Algol, 1965 Brionvega, designed with Marco Zanuso
One of their first projects was the children’s chair in plastic 4999 produced by Kartell in 1964. The first chair in the world made entirely of plastic, is removable, stackable and easy to handle, designed as a module that can be composed and join in and game-play element for children.
Plastic chair 4999, 1964, Kartell, designed with Marco Zanuso
In subsequent years, Zanuso and Sapper work for larger design companies, contributing to a spread of objects in the vanguard for the era and the precursors of the styles that is to be established only in the following decades, becoming the pioneers of a new aesthetic of the dopoguarra call techno-functionalism.
Among these we remember the phone Cricket of 1966, to Siemens, a concentrate of technique, functionality and aesthetic that had little in common with the previous phones. Its parts foldable to eliminate the distinction between the handset and the base, the small size and compact cabinet size in plastic contain all of the necessary components and with its closing “shell” can be considered the ancestor of the models of cell phones flip products in the ’90s.
Phone Cricket, 1966, Siemens, designed with Marco Zanuso
Sapper opened his own studio and works independently, dealing with professionals and technicians belonging to various fields of industry, from electronics tolighting, from historical companies from the mobile to the producers of objects for the kitchen and signature projects for a large number of companies such as Knoll, B&B Italia, Molteni, Magis, Kartell, and Alessi.
For this last draw with the coffee maker 9090, innovative in the profile, in materials and in the mode of use – open with only one hand – and the kettle 9091 with its famous melodic sound when the water reaches the boiling point, unlike the annoying of the traditional kettles.
To the left, Coffee maker 9090, 1979, Alessi. Right, Kettle 9091, 1983, Alessi
The ’70s and ’80s were the years of the consecration of the Sapper as a designer of problem-solving: give a sense of the shape considering the beauty as a result of the utility. Materials and unconventional details designed to perfection and mechanisms of tomorrow made its objects immediately recognizable by their formal minimalism conjugate perfectly with the function they do.
A clear example is the lamp Tizio for Artemide 1972, still one of the lamps most sold in the world. The basic idea was to draw a desk lamp , easy to handle, not bulky and the base occupy a minimum of space. The result is a simple object only at the surface, where the metal rods act as conductors of current thus allowing the elimination of visible electric cables and an innovative system of weights and counter-weights allow you to direct the light simply with a finger.
Lamp Guy, 1972, Artemis
In the ’80s, becomes the chief consultant of industrial design for IBM, and Lenovo, and designs various computer-marked innovations in design and technique, as the laptop ThinkPad. A computer square, black in color, which breaks with the tradition of the computer, gray with a red button in the center of the keyboard became a hallmark of the company.
The dedication and the innovations made in the world of personal computers attract even the attention of Steve Jobs who come in contact with the designer to collaborate with Apple in California, an invitation declined by Sapper because he preferred to remain to work in his Milan.
Richard Sapper remains one of the designers more effective on the international scene of the late Twentieth century. Its fruitful production of objects, which are characterized by an extreme efficiency of the technique and a simplicity that knows how to excite, earned him a well 11 Compasso d’oro awards and are exhibited in all the most important museums in the world.
Laptop ThinkPad, 1992, Lenovo