He started out studying at the Champ Universitaire Italien de Lausanne in Switzerland, where he took courses in architecture and urban planning. Magistretti studied architecture at Milan Polytechnic, graduating in 1945.
In the 1950s Vico Magistretti built private houses, office buildings, churches and hotels.
Magistretti worked as a freelance designer for companies such as Artemide, Cassina, De Padova, Flou, FontanaArte, Fritz Hansen, Kartell, Knoll, O-Luce, Schiffini, and Campeggi.
From the 1960s Vico Magistretti designed furniture and objects of plastic. His "Telegono" table lamp dates from 1968. Magistretti created "Selene" (1969; for Artemide), a plastic stackable chair moulded in one piece. The Magistretti chairs "Gaudì" and "Vicario" were designed in 1970. In 1977 Vico Magistretti created "Atollo", a metal table lamp. In 1983 he designed "Veranda", a convertible sofa that is equipped with an adjustable headrest.
No matter what materials were used, Magistretti always attached great importance to high quality workmanship. For a design solution to be long-lasting and of high quality, Vico Magistretti felt it had to be both beautiful and useful. His designs invariably link sculptural elegance with technical sophistication.
Most of Magistrelli's lamps and furniture have been best sellers and also long sellers. His works have been displayed in the major design exhibitions throughout Europe, United States and Japan and are included in the permanent exhibitions of the world's most important museums. Numerous of his creations are part of the permanent collection of the New Yorker Museum of Modern Art.
From 1980 Vico Magistretti taught at the Royal College of Art in London, becoming an Honorary Fellow in 1983 and, in 1996 a Senior Fellow. He was nominated Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts.
In 2006 Ludovico Magistretti died at the age of 86 years in his birthplace Milan.