1957 - 1959

Ing. C. Olivetti & C., S.p.A.

Ivrea, Italy

 

Olivetti began manufacturing these beautiful typewriters in 1957. Over the following 2-3 years about 8,000 of them were produced in their factory in Ivrea, Italy. Unlike a lot of Olivetti's other postwar typewriters that were available in a variety of fashionable colors, the Graphika was available only with a glossy, pistachio finish. The color wasn't the only interesting feature of the typewriter. All Graphikas were capable of proportional spacing and, furthermore, they were produced with one of two typefaces named, Reiner and Cassandre, of which the latter is particularly sexy.

The Graphika, especially aesthetically, was based on the Olivetti Lexikon 80 model which had a design patent issued for it in 1950 (patent no.D160,467). The patent lists Giuseppe Beccio as the inventor of the "Typewriter Frame" but that it is incorrect. The design belongs to renowned industrial designer Marcello Nizzoli (1887 - 1969). Beccio was an engineer and as such was ultimately responsible for the mechanics of both the Lexikon 80 and Graphika. It is Beccio who engineered the Graphika's inspired/complicated/doomed proportional and variable spacing mechanisms, complete with two spacebars.

 

Other than the Lexicon 80 and Graphika ,Nizzoli and Beccio also worked together to produce Olivetti's Lettera 22 and Studio 44 typewriters, as well as several gorgeous adding machines.

The Olivetti company always had a very design-centric philosophy about all aspects of its business, from the design of its factories to its advertising. Not even to the typefaces were overlooked. Of the Graphika's typefaces, the first was created by Hungarian-Swiss graphic designer Imre Reiner (1900 - 1987). The Reiner typeface had the more modernist font and was standard on all of the earlier Graphikas. The second typeface was created in 1958 by graphic designer A.M. Cassandre, pseudonym for Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron (1901 - 1968). The Cassandre font was much more stylized. Below are examples of both. You may view and download both here.

Now that Olivetti had a beautiful typewriter on its hands, complete with innovative mechanisms and beautifully designed typefaces, the company then sought to generate an impactful advertising campaign. For this, the company tapped the talent of Giovanni Pintori (1912 - 1999), a celebrated poster artist and graphic designer in his own era, who had already created several posters for other Olivetti models.

Just like the Graphika, every single typewriter that Olivetti had ever produced received staggering amounts of attention to design, innovation and marketing and most were produced in modern factories. So, the Graphika, in that regard, was not very special. What made it special was that it was actually a commercial failure in large part because of the proportional spacing. It was too daunting to master adequately (sorry Beccio). 

The Graphika would be produced in a state-of-the art factory that was designed by the architectural firm of Figini and Pollini, named for partners Luigi Figini (1903 - 1984) and Gino Pollini (1903 - 1991). The project commenced in 1934. The new construction attached directly to the original red brick factory. Both the new and old structures still stand (here) and are the first stop of an industrial architectural tour in Ivrea.

Why so daunting? Well, the carriage advanced in .80mm increments and, depending on the width of the character, the carriage would advance 2, 3, 4, or 5 increments. For example, a period (.) advanced by 2 increments while an uppercase M advances by 5 increments. The problem was that, when backspacing to make corrections, the user had to manually do so in increments equal to the letter they typed. Confused?... exactly! Email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com

Graphika