Monday, December 20, 2010

The Most Beautiful Typewriter

When the Olympia arrived in the mail, I immediately wanted one for myself. I began the process of looking for a light blue SM3. Surprisingly, I was able to to find one here in Phoenix in an identical color. It really is a very attractive typewriter. I thought this was, perhaps one of the most beautiful typewriters in the world. The color is blue like a summer sky. The chrome shines even on the grayest of days. The gentle lines are at once playful and very serious. It is a joy to look at.

The Most Beautiful Typewriter
Source: Machines of Loving Grace
But as lovely as the Olympia is, there's only one typewriter that I think truly deserves the moniker of "The Most Beautiful Typewriter" and that is the Olivetti Studio 42 designed in 1935. I know many will disagree with me. I would love to hear the disagreements.

I  do not have an Olivetti Studio 42, but I dream of owning one. If I found this machine (in good condition) I would stop collecting. It's that special.

To assist in proving that the Olivetti Studio 42 is "The Most Beautiful Typewriter" I will be using Dieter Rams' 10 Principles of Good Design. I really connect with Rams' aesthetic and think that the principles he created can really help prove my assertion.

Fig. 2
Source: Machines of Loving Grace
Good Design is Innovative. I cannot think of a typewriter made in the mid-30s that looks a beautiful as the OS42. The only exception is the Royal Deluxe of a similar vintage. While very nice looking, as you can see from the photo (labeled Fig. 2), the use of chrome on this machine is not subtle or discrete. The  Quiet (not DeLuxe) is further adorned with three vertical lines on the frame in front of the spacebar. While each of these machines are highly styled and modern (for their time) they are not as restrained as the Olivetti. There is chrome on the OS42, but it accents the curve of the ribbon cover and the frame of the gray insert.

Good design makes a product useful. There are no unnecessary buttons or levers on the OS42 This isn't unique to this Olivetti. It seems as if typewriters of this vintage are, usually, immune to the stupid gadgetry of typewriters in the 1960s.

Good design is aesthetic. The aesthetic quality of a device is integral to it's usefulness because people use these devices every day to shape their lives. If you use it every day, then it must be beautiful. The Olivetti Studio 42 is a beautiful machine.

Good design makes a product understandable. This is an attribute common to typewriters as a whole. There is (usually) no mystery in how to use the most basic functions of a typewriter; press a button and print out a letter. Where typewriters become incomprehensible is when features are hidden. A perfect example of this is the Remington Travel-Riter. The carriage locks with a small, almost completely unnoticeable lever on the right-hand side of the spool cover. If you were unaware of this stupid little button you would, perhaps, think that the machine is broken when, in fact, the designers were merely idiots. A carriage lock should be on the carriage. That would make sense. The OS42 makes sense.

Source: Machines of Loving Grace
Good design is unobtrusive. The Olivetti Studio 42 visually is an English butler; there when you need it. When you don't need it retreats into the background. It does not assault you with chrome or shiny paint. The SC Sterling of 1936 is a perfect example of shiny distracting paint. The OS42 is neutral and unostentatious.

Good design is honest. When style overrides design you get products that cannot live up to our physical expectations. The perfect illustrative would be the Underwood Deluxe. The influence of automobile styling instantaneously makes this typewriter seem outdated. This, however, was the goal of the American automobile industry in the 1950s; they wanted to
Source: Machines of Loving Grace
sell more cars year after year by making the previous year's style outdated and unfashionable. When you are inspired by this kind of mentality you get bulbous curves that serve no purpose but to appear as if they are designed. This Underwood is dishonest. It promises an experience of driving an automobile. Is typing like driving a car? No. It's typing. The Olivetti does not promise what it cannot keep. It's a sober typewriter and that's it. Curves are present where they are needed. when they are not, they are left off. Take, for example, the curved frame at the front of the machine. No one would want a sharp point near where your hands are working. So, the designers introduced a curve with a pleasant radius. There's no need for curves higher on the machine, so strait lines would be appropriate.

Source: Apple Computer
Good design is long-lasting. The Olivetti Studio 42 is the only typewriter that looks at-place in any decade. The design and taste of this machine transcends decades. In-fact this OS42 reminds me of a rather modern product; the iPad.

Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Who hasn't been annoyed by a poorly designed latch, catch, or lever. Nothing on the OS42 seems to be left to chance. Look at the red tabulator button. Genius!

Good design is environmentally friendly. If a product is meant to last decades rather than years it is innately friendly to the environment. When something is meant to be thrown away when it is no longer fashionable, that is poor design.

Just look at it. It's gorgeous. I hope you would agree with me that the Olivetti Studio 42 is "The Most Beautiful Typewriter." I would love to hear other opinions.

9 comments:

  1. My wife rolls her eyes at me because every time I get out the SM3 (mine in dark green), I comment on how beautiful it is. Yet the Silent-Super is so similar I'm actually planning a comparison typecast.
    That Olivetti is very nice, but I'd still go with the SM3. For pure aesthetics, I just love the Corona 3 but it's not the most user-friendly.

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  2. I agree that the Studio 42 is very handsome and well-designed. But I do like the curves and colors and extras on the best '50s machines. I would nominate the Voss gull-wing design if I had to pick a "most beautiful."

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  3. The SM-3 is definitely a contender for my favorite, both in looks and function. As a general rule I tend to like machines from the late forties through the late fifties. I also have a Princess 200 and I think it looks pretty stinkin' cool.

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  4. I have long admired the Studio 42 and I very much enjoyed your reasoned argument in favor of it. I agree with you completely, just so you know :) It has clean lines and is rather striking - such a contemporary design that it is hard to believe how old it is. Unlike the Studio 46, which screams of its era and looks outdated now. The black color is what makes it classic, and it also came in taupe.

    True story: I was touring the typewriter museum in Lausanne when the proprietor casually opened a case that his sister had brought in to the shop to get out of her house (their father had been a typewriter salesman back in the day). In it was nestled a GORGEOUS Olivetti Studio 42, in turquoise! I have not since seen another online or in person, and still kick myself for not having photographed it... another excuse to return next year.

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  5. That is an amazing story! I would have loved to been there to see a turquoise Studio 42. I've looked at Italian ebay and seen the taupe. I much prefer the black. If you are willing, keep an eye out for a nice one! It might be pricey to have it shipped, but a OS42 in nice condition - in Phoenix - would be insanely expensive anyway.

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  6. I found a black and white Olivetti Studio 42 Tipo 1 L. 2000 with Italian letters made in Ivrea. I was going to put into my yard sale this morning until I started researching. Can you help me with further information or maybe a value?

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  7. Picking up an Olivetti Studio 42 tomorrow! Very excited!

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  8. HI...I am brazilian....I have a Studio 42....restored for me... See images... http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg204/lucasmenegat/11986546_10206665258503760_4967335502798930888_n_zpsvs71ydus.jpg and http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg204/lucasmenegat/11988568_10206665258583762_5390247091605830282_n_zps2anfss3y.jpg

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