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August 11, 2008

Objectify Me: Tim Brown on the Olivetti Valentine

[Note: This is the first in a series of special guest posts, in which people we like discuss designed objects that inspire them. We’ll be posting a new installment of “Objectify Me” every week.]

When I first saw this object as an industrial design student, it made me realize what great industrial design was all about. It’s the Valentine typewriter by the late Ettore Sottsass, designed back in the 1960s for Olivetti. Sottsass took a very mundane, ordinary object, and thought, “What could it be like if it’s not about business anymore, if it’s not about the typing pool, if it’s an object people might have in their homes?”

With this incredibly simple, elegant design, and this absolutely outrageous color, he took a product that’s still serious (it works very well as a typewriter) but he made it human in a completely surprising way. I think even today, even though we’re not using typewriters anymore, it’s still a great piece of product design.

I keep it in my office as a reminder that great design can be simple, it doesn’t always have to be a really complicated idea.

– Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the CEO and president of IDEO, an innovation and design firm with headquarters in Palo Alto, California. His designs have won numerous awards and been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Axis Gallery in Tokyo, and the Design Museum London.


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steven wade says

Aug 11, 2008

i have been looking for a reasonably priced olivetti valentine for a few years now on ebay. somewhat unsuccessfully.

i fear that once this movie comes out it will be even harder for me to locate one.

gary says

Aug 11, 2008

steven, there are four on ebay right now, one is a "buy it now" for $200 USD. for a modern design icon, i think that qualifies as reasonably priced?

rouss says

Aug 12, 2008

Will you interview Philippe Starck?

gary says

Aug 12, 2008


steven wade says

Aug 13, 2008

gary. yeah, thanks for the heads up. my last go around with these i was outbid at 450 dollars. so 200 is a good price... but i think i'm gonna wait for one in a little better condition.

hellomuller says

Aug 13, 2008

I managed to get a Valentine on eBay earlier in the year for around $140 USD... They're out there sometimes at affordable prices.

Guido Baratta says

Aug 17, 2008

I still own a lime green "lettera 22", it was my mother first typewriter and was designed by Marcello Nizzoli in 1949.

This typewriter used to be very popular in Italy and still has many fans. It was awarded the Compasso d'oro prize in 1954; in 1959, the Illinois Technology Institute chose the Lettera 22 as the best design product of the last 100 years.

The typewriter is sized about 27x37x8 cm (with the carriage return lever adding about 1-2 more centimeters in height), making it quite portable at least for the time's standards, even though its 4 kg weight may limit portability somewhat.

Anne says

Aug 22, 2008

Guido, would you happen to have a photo of the Lettera22? It's unheard of on my end. Thanks.

Grant says

Sep 05, 2008

Check out urbanoutfitters for Olivetti Manual Typwriter

gary says

Sep 05, 2008

Thanks Grant. It's no Valentine, but I'm amazed they're still selling typewriters, period.

Sukh Dugal says

Mar 05, 2009

WOW didn't know these were still around. Inspires you towards simple, effective design.

Denise says

Mar 20, 2009

It's a shame that Sottsass is no longer with us. I would have loved to have seen a laptop of his design!