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Richard Sapper

“I’m an impatient person, so if I’ve designed the same object three or four times, I want to try something else. This is a very good way of acquiring a vast amount of experience. I have designed cards, watches, clocks, kettles. Each new experience naturally is a challenge, but it always gives me the opportunity to draw on solutions that I have used in another kind of product.”

Again and again, Richard Sapper creates innovative products by mining the knowledge of far-flung disciplines. One of the few industrial designers never to have attended a school of design or architecture, as a young man, Sapper studied philosophy, anatomy, engineering and economics.

Richard Sapper began his design career working in the styling department of Mercedes-Benz. In 1958 he went to Italy, where he worked with such luminaries as Gio Ponte, Marco Zanuso, and Gae Aulenti. In 1981, Sapper became a corporate design consultant for IBM, for whom he produced a multitude of instantly recognizable designs such as the ThinkPad notebook computer. A ten-time winner of the Compasso d’Oro, he created the iconic Sapper Kettle for Alessi and the incredibly successful Tizio table lamp for Artemide in 1972.

Sapper returned to lighting three decades later, launching the Halley series of LED task lamps for Lucesco. Among his many clients are companies like IBM, Siemens, Fiat, Pirelli, Alfa Romeo, Artemide, Alessi, Knoll International and many others.

More than 15 of his product designs are found in the permanent design collection of MoMA New York, one of the most celebrated of which is his Tizio lamp designed for Artemide. Called a ‘designer’s dream,’ this revolutionary adjustable table lamp has a sleek, black look and swivels smoothly in four directions. In 1971, the use of the lamp’s arms to conduct electricity was a never-before-seen feature, a true innovation representative of Sapper’s work.

Exhibitions of his work have been held in Milan, New York, Paris, Barcelona, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin and Dusseldorf. Sapper has taught and lectured in universities all over the world.

During NeoCon in June 2005, Luminaire welcomed Richard Sapper to Chicago to share his new cutting-edge collection of LED lighting for Lucesco Lighting, with an audience of design enthusiasts. The Halley collection is further evidence of Sapper’s innate ability to integrate ideas of design, engineering and technology. For the 2006 Puppy Love exhibition and auction, Sapper creatively applied a coat of dark synthetic fur to a 3D plastic puppy, gave it wide mouth of hungry teeth, and named it Zerberus to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

Richard Sapper passed away on December 31, 2015 at age 83. Sapper is widely regarded as one of the most important designers of his generation for his innate ability to integrate ideas of design, engineering and technology to create products with superb elegance and simplicity.