Cesare "Joe" Colombo studied until 1949 at the Accademia di Belle Arte di Brera in Milan before transferring to Milan Polytechnic, where he studied architecture until 1954. Joe Colombo is known as a painter, sculptor, architect, and industrial designer. Until 1958 Joe Colombo worked entirely as an Abstract Expressionist painter and sculptor, showing work at numerous exhibitions in Italy.
After his father's death, Joe Colombo ran the family electrical appliance business from 1959, experimenting with new manufacturing methods and materials. In 1962 Joe Colombo opened a design practice in Milan, designing interiors, furniture, lighting, glassware, and utilitarian objects. In 1962 Joe Colombo and his brother Gianni designed "Acrilica" (for O-Luce), an innovative table lamp consisting of an elongated foot with the source of light, to which a sheet of acrylic bent upward in a C-shape was attached to conduct the light from the foot. In this case, Joe Colombo made good use of the thermoplastic and optical possibilities of acrylic to create an elegant lamp.
In 1963-64 Colombo created the "No. 4801" chair, consisting of three pieces of plywood inserted in one another, for Kartell. The "Additional Living System" Joe Colombo designed in 1967-68 was a piece of seat furniture that could be used to lie on, composed of elements that could be put together as desired with clamps.
The Joe Colombo "Tube Chair" (1969-70) functions on similar lines: made of four upholstered elements with frames made of tubing of varying diameter, which could either be clamped together to make piece of seat furniture or could be nested to save space.
Joe Colombo's interiors also shaped 1960s and early 1970s interior decoration, featuring futuristic-looking shapes and color arrangements. Joe Colombo showed these microcosmic living spaces at the "Visiona" exhibition in 1969. Individual pieces of furniture for traditional living areas were united as functional units which Joe Colombo called "Night Cell", "Central Living" or Kitchen Box". For his own flat, Joe Colombo "Roto-Living" and "Cabriolet Bed" units in 1969 and, in 1971 a "Total Furnishing Unit". This last was also shown at the exhibition "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape" at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
In 1971 Joe Colombo died prematurely at the age of only forty-one.