Design Portfolio

A Richard Sapper Sampler

Father of the first "designer" tea kettle, he's not as famous as some of his many legendary designs, such as the IBM ThinkPad laptop

You might not have heard of Richard Sapper. Unlike Michael Graves or Philippe Starke, his name doesn't precede him. But his work, more than likely, you would recognize, whether it's the Tizio desk lamp, the Melodic kettle for Alessi, the iconic Thinkpad, or any one of the countless IBM computers produced since he became Big Blue's design consultant in 1981.

Born in Munich in 1932, Sapper has a portfolio that few designers can rival. After a wide-ranging education - he studied philosophy, graphic design, engineering, and economics - he joined the design department at Mercedes-Benz. Since then, he's worked for Gio Ponti, Pirelli, and Fiat; Alessi, IBM, and Knoll; and countless others. That breadth is part of the secret to Sappers success. He can incorporate a bit of airplane engineering into a bicycle project, or turn a technology used in the automotive world into a desk lamp.

His recent Halley light (shown at right), for Lucesco, is a perfect example. Drawing on his work for IBM, Sapper engineered the lamp using LEDs, the fan and radiator technology used to cool chips in laptop computers, and the clamshell hinge mechanism that connects a laptop’s screen and body.

Here are a few of his most well-known designs.

More Slide Shows