Design Moment: Valentine Typewriter, 1969
There had been portable typewriters before but this was to look like a leisure item
The Valentine became the iPad of its day
We’re used to technology that’s designed to look attractive, sexy even - Apple saw to that - but in 1969 the idea that a typewriter could be gorgeous to look at and enjoyable to use was eye-opening. That’s why the Valentine typewriter made by Italian firm Olivetti was such a ground-breaking piece of design. The brand put great stress on design in its product development and commissioned Ettore Sottsass and Perry King to work on a portable typewriter.
There had of course been portable typewriters before but this was to look like a leisure item, nothing to do with the drudge of office work, a piece that would in its loud plastic cover shout creativity and cool. The Valentine became the iPad of its day. It came in red, green, white and blue - colours borrowed from pop art– but red was its most popular colour. A press photo of Richard Burton carrying a Valentine as he passed through Heathrow airport in 1970 with Elizabeth Taylor - the most glamorous couple of the day - typified the glossy image Olivetti was going for with their design. Sottsass called the typewriter an “unpretentious toy to keep amateur poets company on quiet Sundays in the country or to provide a highly coloured object on a table in a studio apartment”.
The Valentine, now highly collectible, wasn’t a commercial success - it was too expensive and technology soon moved on.