The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Richard Sapper’s Vision of the Future



At Curbed, Alexandra Lange discusses the work of German-born industrial designer Richard Sapper, and a new book about his work published by Phaidon:

When Los Angeles-based designer Jonathan Olivares first met Richard Sapper in 2008 in Milan, Sapper’s adopted home, he put it more bluntly: Why black?

“I expected him to come back with a hardcore minimalist modernist objective,” says Olivares who, like Sapper, has designed for Knoll. But Sapper said something different. “Black looks good in all kinds of interiors: old interiors, messy interiors, a clean modern interior. It ages really well. It doesn’t look dirty. You don’t see the seams. He told me, Next time, look at a white car and look at a black car. On a white car you see all the joints.” Sapper told two different stories about the shape of the ThinkPad. One is that he was inspired by the cigar box, the other by the bento box. In either case, a deceptively dark, plain exterior opens to a world of flavor. The red nub is either a beautiful cigar wrapper or a nice piece of tuna. It’s such a practical explanation it takes a moment to sink in. It’s as if this product designer knew your life…

…Sapper lived with multitudes and made multitudes, and his idea of the future didn’t involve getting rid of everything past, whether personal or visual. Technology, in his world, could co-exist with sentiment and age. To the end, he was still trying to invent a lamp for people who couldn’t hardwire to the ceiling above their tables. It was based on a fishing rod. That was the kind of “perching” that was of interest to him.




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