Olivetti’s design history goes on show

A new exhibition at the ICA in London will look at the Italian brand’s graphic and physical design heritage.

Olivetti Lettera 22, poster by Giovanni Pintori (1954). Courtesy Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti, Ivrea – Italy
Olivetti Lettera 22, poster by Giovanni Pintori (1954). Courtesy Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti, Ivrea – Italy

The ICA in London is set to host an exhibition looking at graphic and spatial design from Italian manufacturing company Olivetti.

Olivetti was formed in 1908 by Camillo Olivetti as a typewriter manufacturer and produced a number of iconic products throughout the 20th century.

These include the Valentine typewriter, designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1969, and the Programma 101 from 1965 – designed with Mario Bellini – which was the world’s first commercial programmable desktop computer.

Other designers the company has worked with include Marcello Nizzoli, George Sowden and James Irvine and it commissioned architects including Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier to design its factories and offices.

Olivetti established a graphic design department in 1937, which was headed by Giovanni Pintori from 1940 until 1967, and the company also worked with designers including Milton Glazer and Herbert Bayer.

The ICA exhibition will present a selection of photographs, films and ephemera which has been brought together in collaboration the Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti.

The gallery says: “Olivetti’s innovative design ethos extended beyond its products.

“This can be seen in the advertisements, both graphic and on film, considered pioneering for the ways in which they communicated complex, extensive information through a bold, simplified aesthetic, and through interior design and architecture, as seen in the company’s numerous showrooms and shop window displays which were conceptualised and transformed into unique installations.”


Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function, runs from 25 May-17 July at the ICA, The Mall, London SW1Y.

Olivetti Showroom, Venice – Italy, designed by Carlo Scarpa (1958). Photo: Marco Ambrosi. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Venice – Italy, designed by Carlo Scarpa (1958). Photo: Marco Ambrosi. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Venice – Italy, designed by Carlo Scarpa (1958). Photo: Marco Ambrosi. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Venice – Italy, designed by Carlo Scarpa (1958). Photo: Marco Ambrosi. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Venice – Italy, designed by Carlo Scarpa (1958). Photo: Marco Ambrosi. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Venice – Italy, designed by Carlo Scarpa (1958). Photo: Marco Ambrosi. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona – Spain, designed by BBPR (1965). Photo: F. Català Roca. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona – Spain, designed by BBPR (1965). Photo: F. Català Roca. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona – Spain, designed by BBPR (1965). Photo: F. Català Roca. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan
Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona – Spain, designed by BBPR (1965). Photo: F. Català Roca. Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan

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