Writer and director of London’s Design Museum Deyan Sudjic knew the late prolific, famed (and infamous) Italian designer and architect Ettore Sottsass, having first met him at one of the many pivotal moments of the designer’s life, after a party celebrating the launch of Memphis in 1981. Sudjic’s new biography, published by Phaidon, therefore represents both an encyclopedic yet personal life story of Sottsass, from World War II, through Olivetti, the founding of the Memphis Group in 1980, to increasingly impressive architectural commissions for Sottsass Associati up until his death in 2007.
James Goggin has been obsessed with Sottsass’s vast body and range of work ever since his childhood, with the visual influence of Memphis being felt in 1980s Australia and Sweden. Practise was therefore pleased to work on the design and typesetting of this important biography, taking multiple influences from Sottsass’s Olivetti projects (Futura Black lifted from the Valentine typewriter [see also Olivetti on Fonts In Use]); experimental furniture, ceramic, and glass works (layers and stacking); and from the idiosyncratic colour palette developed across his life and career. Colour-blocked chapter dividers employ a total of ten different Pantone colours, and the cover hints at the textural range of Sottsass’s work with type and elements variously foil-block embossed, Pantone-coloured, and UV-coated.