Away with the cap! Swiss designer Franco Clivio has given the fountain pen a new impetus. His LAMY dialog 3 hides the nib inside the body. A simple twist is enough to allow it to slide out, as if by magic. A timeless piece with the potential to become a classic.
It isn’t always researchers, producers, and designers who bring new ideas, however. Sometimes, inventive laymen succeed in the great attempt. Exactly one such case occurred in 1883, when American insurance salesman Lewis Edson Waterman was tired of carrying round an inkwell and quill for the purpose of signing contracts. “His brilliant idea was to bring the ink and the quill together. And so he invented the fountain pen”, recounts Franco Clivio. The Swiss designer, too, has managed to bring two elements together.
In 2001, Clivio designed the pico for LAMY, a pen whose nib can move from inside to outside with a simple pressure movement, and vice versa. He found the initial idea for this design in his ‘salmagundi’, the term he gives to his thousands of seemingly banal, un-designed objects that he has collected from flea markets, junk shops, and department stores around the globe. Under the title No Name Design, his Wunderkammer is currently touring various museums in Europe.
“100 years ago, there was a very small pen that could be extended via a backwards and forwards motion. The downside was that you had to use two hands”, remarks the 73-year-old. His achievement was to implement the same principle using a technique that enabled it to be operated with only one hand; the pico was born. And in 2009, he further developed the concept by creating the dialog 3. This time the pen merely required rotation, rather than pressure.
This article appeared in DAM52. Order your personal copy.
It is the first fountain pen with a mechanically movable nib and clip. When the pen is rotated, the partially platinum-plated gold nib slides out. At the same time, the clip gracefully lowers, making it easier to write. “Of course, it would have been nicer if the clip could have been on the other side. But to make sure that the ink cannot leak, the nib must always point upwards”, says Clivio.

To prevent the drying of the ink, the front of the pen closes by means of a ball valve – a principle that’s also used for water and gas pipes. It was important for this graduate of the famous Ulm School of Design that his pen not be an object of representation, but rather, a tool for everyday life. Clivio’s thoughtful design is so self-evident that it is beyond time.
No Name Design, at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany, 11 December – 03 April 2016.