“The Portable Red” Valentine: take 1968 with you

The Valentine typewriter, “The Portable Red”, was manufactured by Olivetti on designs by Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007) in the iconic year 1968. Poet Giovanni Giudici described it as “a Lettera 32 dressed for the 1968 protests” when, alongside other writers, he wrote advertisement copy for the Ivrea-based company.

Targeted at “young or young-at-heart people who like what is new and in fashion” (according to the project brief by Sottsass himself), the Valentine was made in ABS plastic, making it lightweight and easy to carry around. It was launched in 1969, ready to become a mass-market success.

Unlike other portable typewriters that had come before, it could be carried around like “a jacket, a pair of shoes, a hat. I mean like all the things you care about or not, things that come and go, things that we tend to consider less and less” (again quoting Sottsass).

Even the Valentine’s advertisement campaign was innovative. According to Sottsass – who worked on promotion with Adrianus Van Der Elst, Milton Glaser, Valter Ballmer, Roberto Pieraccini, Graziella Marchi, Yoshitaro Isaka and others – it reflected Olivetti’s desire to “open to new times and even to a new structure of industrial plans, facing bigger responsibilities and an increasingly aware society every day.”

The Olivetti Valentine is now part of the permanent architecture and design collection of the MoMA in New York.

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