Just My Type(writer)
Welcome to the seventh edition of Theoretical Thursdays this summer. For the previous article click here. This week takes a look at an Italian typewriter.
The Italian company Olivetti put the compact typewriter, crafted by the designer Ettore Sottsass, into production in 1969. Sottsass was quoted as saying, “Design should also be sensual and exciting.” He wanted to create a product that people wanted to use not one they had to use. The typewriter was a tool of efficiency, but the color choice allowed for personalization. He did this to subvert the functionalism tenets he learned repeatedly while in design school.
Design magazine Disegno compared the Valentine to the Apple Bondi Blue iMac. I find the comparison accurate. The clunky iMac was splashy and colorful but lacked the functional capacity, like the Valentine, to remain a marketable commodity for long. The typewriter was not a particularly easy product to use but was an instant critical success. Only two years after the release the Valentine was accepted into MoMA as an example of a Pop Art consumer product despite the device’s lagging sales.
The bright red Valentine also came in blue, green and white models of ABS plastic and corresponding plastic keys. Sottsass employed color theory to make his choices—red indicates passion helping to reinforce the idea of an emotional connection Sottsass was aiming at creating with the aptly named Valentine. The small machine was well-crafted enough to remain a collector’s item for years before Sottsass ultimately considered the product to be too gaudy.
This device serves as a good example of balancing message, content, and form. The message here being that technology can be fun and friendly. Brand loyalty to the style of the design and the connection made to the product comprises the content. However, the final form was not a commercial success largely due to the less than careful thought of the mechanizations that actually run the typewriter.
For more on the Valentine typewriter click here.