Born in Innsbruck (Austria) in 1917, he studied in Turin and graduated in architecture.
In 1958 he started working for the Olivetti corporation. In 1981 he was one of the founders of the Memphis brand, and with this trademark he designed glassware in the 80s, characterized by highly - successful strong colours contrasts.
He cooperated with S.A.L.I.R.'s in 1948, with Vistosi's in 1977 and with Venini & Co. in 1989.
In 1947 he set up a firm in Milan where he dealt with architectural and design projects.
His design work was collateral, however, to cultural initiatives.
He took part in various Triennale exhibitions, and in collective and personal exhibitions in Italy and elsewhere.
Ettore played an international role in innovating design in the pre- and post-war years.
In 1958 he started to work with Olivetti as a design consultant.
In 1959 he designed, among other things, the first Italian electronic calculator and, later, various peripheral calculation systems, as well as typewriter models such as Praxis, Tekne, Editor, and Valentine. A Valentine typewriter is now included in the permanent collection at New York''s Museum of Modern Art.
After a long lecture tour of British universities, Sottsass was awarded an honorary degree by the Royal College of Art in London. In 1980 he founded the firm Sottsass Associates, where he continued his work as architect and designer.
The following year he set up, with colleagues, friends, and internationally renowned architects, the Memphis group, which soon became the flagship of ''''new design'''' and a landmark for the contemporary avant-garde movement. His work became part of the permanent collections of important museums in major cities: New York, Paris, Sydney, Denver, Stockholm, London, San Francisco, and Toronto.
His most recent accolades include, in 1992, an appointment as 'Officier' in the order of arts and literature of the French Republic, an honorary degree in 1993 from the Rhode Island School of Design, and in 1994 the IF Award Design Kopfe from Industrie Forum Design in Hannover; in 1996 he has awarded both an honorary doctoral degree at the Royal College of Art of London and a design prize by the Brooklyn Museum in New York.