When Camillo Olivetti, the founder of a growing Italian typewriter company, sent his son, Adriano, to the U.S. in 1924 to study American industrialism, did he realize that he would be plotting an entirely new course for the future of his little endeavor?

Olivetti Valentine, 1969.

Olivetti Valentine (1969), designed by Marcello Nizzoli and Ettore Licenza.

Probablemente. Young Adriano’s visit to the Remington Typewriter Co. may have convinced him that productivity was a function of an organizational system and that industry must play a part in creating a more pleasing environment for the people it impacted, from factory worker to end user. Little is known about his visit there, but Adriano came back with a new vision to integrate labor and life outside of the workplace into one experience. It was a simple philosophical premise that had far-reaching consequences, one that the empathetic young man would soon apply to the product development and to the community of thinkers who would help forge the company’s design aesthetic.

Olivetti advertising, 1973.

A good example of Olivetti’s graphic and colorful advertisements, 1973.

After taking the reigns of Olivetti, Adriano merged the Italian modernist principles that guided his manufacturing philosophy with humanistic concerns for the modern worker worldwide. Olivetti’s primary goal of harmonizing labor with life led him to found a “Community Movement” and most certainly influenced the design of products used by office workers as well. These products strive to communicate with the public through bold design aesthetics and would transform the seriously technical into the tactile and sensual.

Olivetti Lettera 22, 1955.

Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter, circa 1950.

Olivetti encouraged independent thinking in its designers and hoped it would trickle down to the public as well. Marcello Nizzoli’s creation of the Lettera 22 typewriter (1950) was a compact and portable pup in a world full of elephants, introducing the idea that one wasn’t tethered to the desk all day. It eventually won the Compasso d’Oro prize in 1954 and was chosen by the Illinois Institute of Technology as the best design of the last 100 years.

Olivetti's "Valentine" typewriter.

Olivetti’s “Valentine” model.

It was Ettore Sottsass, however, that ultimately linked Olivetti and the typewriter in the minds of cult followers. The Valentine (1969), which attracted a new design-savvy generation of on-the-go typists, pushed the notion that productivity could be a happy (and even fun) affair. In fact, Sottsass considered the Valentine an “anti-machine machine.” Visionaries such as these, given adequate space to explore, transformed an otherwise mundane office with beautiful tools that invited the worker to be stimulated with color and form.

Olivetti Lettera 36, 1972

Olivetti Lettera 36 typewriter, 1972.

Like his American counterpart George Nelson, Olivetti’s goal of breathing life into the office was echoed in advertising campaigns ripe with bold concepts and color which were successful in a constantly evolving marketplace. High concept marked the postwar years, pushing the idea that work could be play, and that it should always be creative. Like Nelson and Herman Miller advertising, Olivetti campaigns portrayed the workplace as a fluid environment, much more inviting to the modern worker than the prewar office, heavy and oppressive.

Olivetti Lettera 22 instruction manual. (Image courtesy of Puppies and Flowers)

The instruction manual for the Olivetti Lettera 22. (Image courtesy of Puppies and Flowers)

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9 Comments

  1. Jenn
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

    WANT

  2. Nins
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    really really cool images…

  3. Posted March 6, 2010 at 6:26 PM | Permalink

    who knew my life was missing a) this typewriter and b)this info? my next cocktail party is going to kill with olivetti references.

  4. coppedgeb
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Permalink

    Great article now if you can just help me find a Valentine for less than $800.

  5. L.L.
    Posted March 18, 2010 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

    Love it.

  6. Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:06 AM | Permalink

    Gentlemen,a Fine Day to You.

    My Mexican edition Oliveti Valentino, I do love quite well, but tjhere is a small ill disadvantage with it The typtwriter is slided into this -same color-: type of box. Two rubber straps hold it on place for you to carry it around, but wuth time, this two elastic straps do kind o rust and do become useless and your type writer can not bu lugged along any mora but you have to carry it under your arm and it is not proper.

    My uestion: Are this rubber bands offered for a price.?.

    Thanks for an answer, Friendly,

    jairobetancourtálvarez.

    PD. I am writing from Medellín, Colombia

  7. Anonymous
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    where can i buy olivetti typewritter in the philippines?

  8. Posted April 30, 2015 at 9:50 PM | Permalink

    By no means pay a carpet cleaning service quote on the phone. The most effective way for an organization to give you an estimate is to glance at the size of the space and the way damaged your current carpets and rugs tend to be. Anybody who will give you a mobile phone quotation is tugging several out of your air.

  9. Posted May 15, 2015 at 2:23 AM | Permalink

    I brought a red Olivetti Tpewriter which I taught myself to type with,
    it gave me a lot of fun and good times, I used to change the typewriter spools from black to black & red, it is so good to see something of my past, is a free newsletter on the Olivetti Typewriters please? Thankyou. Silvana.

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