The oversized letter O for Olivetti, set asymmetrically in the picture space, takes on the charge of an abstract graphic symbol in Walter Ballmer’s (1923–2011) exhibition poster Stile Olivetti. Ballmer, who took a post as graphic designer in the development and advertising department at the typewriter manufacturer Olivetti in Ivrea in 1956, anticipated here the broad and flat typography that would characterize the seminal Olivetti logo he designed in 1970.
For many years, Walter Ballmer was responsible for Olivetti’s graphic design concept, which won the gold medal at BIO 5, the 5th Biennial of Industrial Design, in Ljubljana in 1973. Olivetti typified a new corporate culture that sought to combine aesthetic and ethical values. The entire Olivetti product range as well as the company’s corporate identity shaped the “Olivetti Style,” to which an extensive exhibition was devoted in 1961 at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Zürich (today the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich). The exhibition was shown afterward in Munich. Ballmer designed two posters as well as the accompanying catalogue published by the Kunstgewerbemuseum Zürich. For the Munich poster, he varied the Zurich template in color and form. The title of the exhibition is now superimposed on the striking O and thus assigns to it a unique substantive meaning. The connection of the letters e and O in the title of the exhibition furthermore illustrates how Olivetti’s success is a product of the consistency of its visual identity. The main protagonist in both posters, however, remains the broad letter O, whose punched-out interior is elongated to form a narrow oval. The thick left part of the letter, protruding far into the picture space, takes on a massive weight through the combination of straight lines and small arcs at its ends rather than a gradual curvature, vividly underscoring the solidity and self-confidence of the company. (Bettina Richter)