Olivetti e il Design Management

Uploaded by DMCBologna on 10.06.2011

bjbj OLIVETTI An Example of Design Management Ahead of its Time DMC tells the story of Olivetti,
a real and true case of design management ahead of its time. Voice by Marina Brancaccio.
The story of Olivetti is not only emblematic for those that are interested in design but
also within the history of Italy, throughout the good and the bad. The company was born
in 1908 thanks to Camillo Olivetti who had abandoned his previous ventures with precision
instruments and dedicated his time to type writers. The first model typewriter, the M1,
was presented during the International Exhibition in Turin, in 1911. During the 1920s, while
Camillo was busy reinforcing production and company growth (the Olivetti workshops were
built in 1922), his son Adriano crossed the threshold of the company working as a laborer
(1924). In the following year, his journey to the U.S.A. helped him to understand the
necessary roles of management within the company. Adriano visited the small and medium sized
enterprises outside the main industrial center, therefore bringing in his ideas, experiences,
and understandings into the company. He quickly became general manager in 1932 and soon there
after, in 1938, President of the company. To all intents and purposes Adriano proposed
a series of new and radical innovations, transforming Olivetti into a unique case of entrepreneurship,
and a model for design management ahead of its time. Adriano developed a comprehensive
system of social services, and commissioned new factories, offices, employee housing,
dining halls and nurseries, designed by famous Modernist architects such as Figini and Pollini
His idea of society is expressed with the foundation of the Movimento di Comunit (Community
Movement) and its publishing house, which after the Second World War was a true circle
of intellectuals under the direction of Renzo Giorgi. In this framework the company was
running its extraordinary adventure in design: product design, with Marcello Nizzoli and
graphic design with Giovanni Pintori. These designers coordinated their respective work
groups, talking directly with Adriano. Their roles (in particular, Nizzoli s one) were
to find the proper unification between the objectives of production, distribution, and
technology. Moreover, design was a key to the opening of operations within foreign markets.
The Moma, in New York, devoted to Olivetti the very first exhibition dedicated to a company,
in 1952. Olivetti also understood early on that the new perspective was to be electronic:
at the very beginning of the 1960s there was a team working to anticipate the moves of
its more powerful competitors, such as IBM. At this point, its story crosses the history
of Italy, where it was the strongest example of planning capacity, and also of the reconstruction
after the Second World War. Olivetti matched its first financial crisis thanks to a group
of the top Italian banks and companies; but they forced the Ivrea firm to sell the 75%
of the electronic department. However, with the remaining 25% of the electronic department,
Olivetti was able to develop the first personal computer in 1970. After Adriano s death, Olivetti
continued to have a leading role in the European industry during the 1970s and 1980s. The company
still focused on the expertise in design, for istance through the corporate identities
by Castelli and Von Klier, and Pieracini; the office stations by Sowden; and the Automated
Teller Machine designed by Sottsass. But like the epilogue of a typical story, in a country
with no memories like Italy, the company was acquired by Telecom and then vanished from
the industrial scene. Nevertheless, Olivetti is an exemplary case of design management,
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