Luigi Colani’s typewriter stations

by | Nov 11, 2020 | Uncategorized | 19 comments

Luigi Colani (1928-2019), the German industrial designer with an Italian name, created some really eye-catching objects, including cars, trucks, furniture, and pianos.
Until recently, this was the only picture I’d seen of a typing station designed by Colani, on display at a 1960s show. The secretary is nestled in this unit that combines a typewriter, a chair, and headphones. 
On the headphones, maybe she’s listening to some groovy music, but more likely, she’s listening to a recording dictated by her boss. The chair looks like it’s holding the headphones in its hands. Her head can’t swivel easily—would this really be comfortable?
The angle of the typewriter can be adjusted, and it has a light to illuminate the copy. Note the ergonomic keyboard and the bulbous platen knobs. I believe this is a modified Selectric. If you look closely, you’ll see wrist rests in front of the typewriter.

More recently, I found two more photos of Colani typing stations. The photo below shows pushbutton controls on the seat (maybe for controlling the tape recorded dictation?).  The typewriter has a curving keyboard, but it isn’t split into two sectors like the one above. There are no wrist rests. I suspect this is an earlier prototype.

Then there’s this photo, which seems to match the first photo above. Here we get a good view of the wrist rests, along with the two indentations for the secretary’s legs (not present in the typing station in the second photo). Most of all, we get color. Am I the only one who sees a white duck with yellow legs? These wouldn’t be my color choices.

What do you think? Would you enjoy settling into one of these and doing some writing?


  1. Unknown

    What you would expect from someone who had learned OF ergonomics but hadn't EXPERIENCED ergonomics for a full work week. And believed in a very hierarchical workplace with narrow roles, rigidly defined. This is clearly a transcription station. There's not even a spot for a copy holder, much less a phone.

  2. Unknown

    @MartyH says: "II think it needs an ottoman and a side table for coffee cups. No arms for cubholders. Not sure about arm-posture in that first photo, keyboard seems too close to me.

  3. TokyoJAM

    Thanks for sharing this, Richard. Do you know where the color one is displayed? Is it your photo? I would love to try one out!

  4. Bill M

    Very futuristic and outer space like.
    Sure beats that silly lean on your knees ergo desk I've seen.
    Looks quite comfy and even has a typewriter with an ergonomic keyboard long before Microsoft was even a thought.

  5. Gerard

    Very interesting design and full of creativity. That's the reason why I like the 60s and 70s when the world seems to have infinite possibilities for humanity.

  6. Richard P

    The photo exists on Pinterest and Reddit, but I don't know the original source, or the location of this display.

  7. John Cooper

    I doubt she's listening to groovy music or anything else, since the headphones are not over her ears. And given the way the headphone cups are nestled in a curve of hard plastic, it doesn't look like there's a way to get the headphones over her ears, either. (If you bent the headpiece forward at the joint to reposition the cups, her eyes would be pointed at the spacebar instead of the paper.)

    Speaking of paper, from where is she supposed to get a new sheet? And where shall she put the completed sheet? Does she have to leave the chair at the end of each page? Good luck; it doesn't look easy. OSHA would probably have something to say about the safety of this cocoon chair in a fire. And also about the "ergonomics" of a seating system that locks you rigidly into position, however comfortable the position may seem initially.

    Marty's right about the arm position. Hold your own arms with the wrists one inch in front of your torso, and ask yourself how you'd like to type in that position, and how long you could without pain.

    I think this was designed as eye candy by someone who thinks of secretarial staff as eye candy. Colani should have been sentenced to work in one eight hours a day, for a week, and then pay for physical therapy at his own expense.

  8. Nick Bodemer

    I genuinely don't think I could fit in one of these…let alone be able to type at any speed while in it.

  9. SteveK

    It looks better in black n white. I forsee back problems ;D

  10. Richard P

    Interesting range of reactions when I posted these photos on Instagram:

    That’s amazing. Darn, I want one.

    I thought it was child sized. Difficult to tell scale

    So cool ?

    I really would love to try that one out. Look at the ergonomic keyboard!



    Sign me up! This is wonderful ?

    I want one!:)

    You too could be a typing duck ?!

    Like oven and ironing toys, bet it was to prepare young uns for the world of woik (us secretaries didn't quite share the current romance for our typers?)

    Undergo dental procedures while you type ??…

    At a quick first glance I thought it was a duck??

  11. DonN

    A classic case of form before function! Tools that endure all tend to be similar, due to the evolutionary principle. Not surprising this never succeeded in the real world.

  12. Unknown

    it thought
    it is a chair

  13. Mary Lynn Dietsche

    How would a person who was not a normal size (too tall, too short, over weight) fit into this contraption?

  14. annacat

    Two things: 1) This is in IKEA's winter catalog 2) I want to see her get out of this without flashing everyone.
    It is a very fun creation!

  15. Mark

    That is 100% a duck lol.

  16. Linda

    Forty years as a secretary, I can definitely say NO WAY! LOL!

  17. cultobjects

    The Colani typewriter station prototype is on display at Haworth Inc. Headquarters and Showroom, Haworth Center, Holland, MI 49423, United States


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