Remembering Richard Sapper, 1932–2015

  • 2016-02-04
  • Metropolis

In recent years, as Richard and I collaborated on a definitive study of his work, an intimate friendship developed, and I came to understand his approach, his techniques, and his motives.

From a pen to a bus, Richard was comfortable working in all scales, and he was able to design successful products for large corporations and small family owned businesses alike. His business acumen and understanding of the function of beauty gave him sway over industry in a way that few designers of his generation had, and as a result he was able to assert his subjective thinking over design at a mass scale. He would refer to the all-important “kiss from the muse” that was necessary to begin each project, and his poetic approach favored an element of surprise. His water kettle for Alessi held a prize for the user who would clean it, as its polished surface reflects the world around it, and his ThinkPad laptop conceals its keyboard and digital content inside a simple black box. While his designs were often radical and technological, he was concerned with participating in an ancient legacy of form and drew much of his inspiration from premodern designs. He was an avid skier, windsurfer, sailor, rally racer, even wind glider, and his love of motion (and forms in motion) translated into many kinetic designs such as the Tizio lamp and the Sapper monitor arms.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons