Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of ThingsDeyan Sudjic

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The incredible life story of one of the 20th century's most important designers, who knew everyone from Hemingway to Picasso.

Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things chronicles the life and times of one of the most important, prolific, and, above all, interesting designers and architects of the 20th century. Sottsass (1917-2007), originally trained as an architect and worked as a design consultant for Olivetti, where he developed the iconic Valentine typewriter, before going on to found the Memphis Group in the 1980s, ushering in an era of influential designs in furniture, ceramics and lighting that continue to inspire design minds today with their flamboyance and use of color.

Author Deyan Sudjic (Director of London's Design Museum) does not limit his narrative to an examination of Sottsass' iconic designs. Though a native son of Italy, Sottsass cast a shadow of influence on the entire world, traveling extensively over the course of his life and interacting with some of the 20th century's most iconic figures, including Picasso, Hemingway and Allen Ginsberg. Sudjic's writing, complemented by unpublished personal photographs from Sottsass' archive, offers a unique view of Sottsass from the perspective of the world that surrounded him, recounting anecdotes of encounters between the designer and his famous contemporaries. The result is a unique and comprehensive portrait not only Sottsass but of the last 100 years of design in Italy and around the world.

Features anecdotes of his encounters with the biggest creatives of the time, and details of his influences and inspirations, documenting the contemporary design scene both in Italy and abroad.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Size: 234 × 156 mm (9 1/4 × 6 1/8 in)
  • Pages: 216 pp
  • Illustrations: 62 illustrations
  • ISBN: 9780714869537

Born in London, Deyan Sudjic studied architecture in Edinburgh, edited Domus magazine in Milan, was the director of the Venice Architecture Biennale and has been a curator in Glasgow, Istanbul and Copenhagen. He is now director of The Design Museum in London. His books for Phaidon include Living in the Endless City, and monographs on John Pawson and Shiro Kuramata. His most recent book, B is for Bauhaus was published by Penguin in 2014.

'I have been obsessed with the Italian architect and designer Sottsass and the Memphis Group he found all my life. I love everything about Sottsass's work – it's modern, optimistic, humorous, functional and intelligent. The designs in this book make me feel proud to be Italian. ' —Donatella Versace on Ettore Sottsass

"Dudjic reads the career of Sottsass as a means of telling the story of 20th century design as a whole. ...the Memphis Group, which came to define postmodernism of the 1980s, has since influenced the look of everything from cushions to trainers. ...This lively narrative complements the exquisite Sottsass monograph published by Phaidon in 2014." —New Design

"this book is a gem of straightforward information and tall tales" —

"Sudjic first met Sottsass after a party to celebrate the launch of Memphis in 1981, arguably one of the pivotal days in the colorful life of the Italian designer, and Sudjic's writing is informed by this personal connection" —Metropolis

'His greatness existed less in individual creations than in the space between everything he did. ' —The Guardian on Ettore Sottsass

"a pivotal figure in mid-20th century European culture" —The Quarterly