Ettore Sottsass: Memphis Mastermind

Ettore Sottsass: Memphis Mastermind

I try and be as stupid as possible regarding my profession, which means I try to look at as few design magazines as possible.

- Ettore Sottsass

Pronunciation: eh-TOR-ay SOT-sass

In 2000, Design Boom met Ettore Sottsass in his Milano studio.

The complete interview transcript can be found here.

This laid back interview shows so much of Ettore's attitude toward design, architecture, and life.

While he may appear to be frowning in most of his photographs, his quotations suggest a rather optimistic perspective on life -- and design, at the very least.

Founder of the influential Memphis aesthetic, received design inspiration anywhere. Whether in the bathroom, on the phone, at the table..."You know how sometimes when you are on the telephone, you think you are speaking, but really your hand is going?”

And when it came to his distinctions between his architecture and his furniture designs, Sottsass found none. In fact, he believed the two were merely two different stages of invention.

"My furniture is an exercise in architecture or architectural mood."


In 1980, Ettore organized the first of meetings with fourteen designers, himself, and his journalistic wife. This group would be called Memphis and their saturated, vibrant, totemic, pop art aesthetic would be recognized decades after the group disbanded in 1988.


Ettore described his personal design aesthetic as non-existent.


The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned 2000 interview.

Designboom: Describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.

Sottsass: I truly believe that our duty as an architect or a designer is to design things which attract luck, rooms which protect people…I don’t design things in any style, even less so in any fashion style, I design things for life states.

Sottsass also perceived the impact design had on mental states.

"When I began designing machines I also began to think that these objects, which sit next to each other and around people, can influence not only physical conditions but also emotions. They can touch the nerves, the blood, the muscles, the eyes and the moods of people. " - Ettore Sottsass (A Critical Biography)

His view on design's role in the human experience, specifically the role furniture plays on psychology, is refreshing and still worthy of emphasis in today.

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