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2013/98/1 Calculator, Summa 15, metal / plastic / rubber / paper, designed by Marcello Nizzoli / Natale Capellaro, made by Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy, 1949. Click to enlarge.

Olivetti Summa 15 desk top calculator designed by Marcello Nizzoli

This purely mechanical desk top calculator the Summa 15 (1949) was designed by Marcello Nizzoli. Olivetti formed alliances with some of Italy's finest industrial designers, nurturing the formation of new products in collaboration with them and exploring new materials and techniques of manufacture and assembly.

Nizzoli became one of the instruments through which Olivetti was able to combine industrial design and the plastic arts to create new designs for its existing line of office products.

From humble beginnings in the early 20th century the Italian company - Olivetti - grew to be the largest manufacturer of typewriters in the world by the late 1950s. Adriano Olivetti, the son of Olivetti's founder Camilo Olivetti, was appointed general manager in 1933. Adriano was enamored by the modernist aesthetic and had in the years previous to his appointment visited the US to observe modern industrial practices. He immediately set to recruiting the very best designers and architects to oversee the transformation of Olivetti into a modern international corporation.

Marcello Nizzoli was appointed the company's chief design consultant in 1936 only relinquishing this position to Ettore Sottsass in 1958. Throughout this period Nizzoli's work for Olivetti led the industry in the adoption of advanced manufacturing processes, new materials and the highest standards in mechanical engineering.

Campbell Bickerstaff, 2013


Object No.


Object Statement

Calculator, Summa 15, metal / plastic / rubber / paper, designed by Marcello Nizzoli / Natale Capellaro, made by Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy, 1949

Physical Description

Calculator housed in a smooth, grey/green coloured plastic case, with the outline closely following the mechanical elements inside. The plate housing the keys at the front is dark blue, the keys are black with white lettering and the handle on the right hand side is black with metal screws. There is a roll of paper for use with the calculator.


'Olivetti' is printed in black lettering on a metal plate attached to the centre left front.
Manufacturer's label on back includes text 'Summa 15 / Olivetti / Made in Italy'.



155 mm


255 mm


350 mm


7 kg




The Summa 15 calculator was designed by Marcello Nizzoli for Olivetti and Natale Capellaro (mechanics) and manufactured at its plant in Ivrea near Turin in Italy in 1949.

The Summa 15 is both ergonomically functional and elegant to look at. The yellow joystick on the upper right face of the machine selects subtraction, sub-total, total or number not to be included. After an amount is entered, the operator's hand moves toward the handle with the thumb setting the yellow joystick to the required position as it passes. The lever is then pulled forward and released. An amount is printed on paper (roll feed from rear of machine), black for individual amounts and red for the total or sub-total.

A knob with a yellow stripe at the bottom right moves one notch to the left for each digit entered. Pulling this to the far right clears all numbers entered. There is a sliding control above this which enables multiplication. Multiplication is achieved by entering an amount, setting the control to multiplication and pulling the handle the required number of times. A counter on the left of the keyboard lets the operator see how many times the amount has been entered. At the top right is a circular knob which when rotated feeds the paper roll.



Marcello Nizzoli became Olivetti's chief design consultant in 1936. That year Giovanni Pintori the artist and graphic designer also joined Olivetti. Nizzoli and Pintori worked on architectural, product, and publicity design.

Olivetti's first calculator - the MC 4S Summa was a collaboration between Nizzoli and "the mechanic" Natale Capellaro and went into production in 1940. Their collaboration on Olivetti's calculator product line continued through to the early 1960s.


Credit Line

Purchased 2013

Acquisition Date

2 October 2013

Cite this Object


Olivetti Summa 15 desk top calculator designed by Marcello Nizzoli 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 April 2021, <https://ma.as/471924>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/471924 |title=Olivetti Summa 15 desk top calculator designed by Marcello Nizzoli |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 April 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Interface: people, machines, design at the Powerhouse Museum.