Richard Sapper, the German-born industrial designer considered one of the most influential of his generation, has died aged 83.

Based in Milan for much of his professional life, Sapper maintained a singular approach to design, producing feted works that synthesised both aesthetic simplicity and a high level of technical understanding and formal discipline (albeit infused with warmth and humour).

Born in Munich in 1932, Sapper initially worked as a stylist for Daimler Benz in Stuttgart, before taking posts at the offices of Gio Ponti and and La Rinascente in Milan after moving there in 1958. He founded his own studio a year later.

Over the following half century, Sapper produced a multifaceted body of work, from furniture to kitchen appliances, cars and even ships, designing for companies as diverse as IBM and Alessi (for whom he conceived a number of his best known products: the ThinkPad laptops for the former; and an espresso machine and kettle for the latter), Artemide, B&B Italia, Castelli, Heuer, Kartell, Knoll International, Lenovo, Lorenz, Magis, Molteni Unifor and Pirelli.

Sapper was the recipient of myriad international design prizes (not least ten Compasso d'Oro awards) and his work is held in the permanent collections of the V&A in London and New York's Museum of Modern Art, among others. In 2012, he received the Merit Cross of the Order of Merit from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

As reported by Phaidon – publishers of a forthcoming monograph on the designer's work – Sapper passed away on New Year's Eve. He is survived by his wife, Dorit; their three children, Carola, Mathias and Cornelia; and by three grandchildren.