The Evolution Of Your Office

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The outer shell of the machine was designed by Eliot Noyes to reflect the aesthetic of the ball print unit while softening its geometry into a more natural shape inspired by concepts of biomorphism. Noyes wanted the Selectric to suggest a sculpture by lsamu Noguchi, who provided art for IBM’s headquarters, and to radiate a soothing presence in the rigid geometry of the office. And the machine was made available in many different colors. Companies could even order custom colors; the University of Kentucky, for instance, located near the Selectric factory in Lexington, patriotically put in an order for a number of typewriters in the shade of blue worn by the school’s teams.

The Selectric established the idea that a piece of office equipment should be attractive. It was a long time before personal computers were as pleasant to look at and be around. But the keyboard on the Selectric remained the QWERTY keyboard. So does the keyboard on the glowing Apple iMac. And even though there are now staplers whose translucent hues and blobby shapes imitate the look of the iMac, they still use the same standard staples as my old Swingline.

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