In Memoriam: Massimo Vignelli


Massimo Vignelli, Icon and Legend in the Design World, Dies at 83

Massimo Vignelli knew he’d never accomplish all he had envisioned. “One Life is too short for doing everything,” he said. With over 50 high-profile clients, many top-tier awards from across the world, claim to the design behind the iconic New York subway map, and work seen and used by millions of consumers and tourists per day, it’s clear that Mr. Vignelli always set his sights high.

Vignelli grew up in Milan, Italy, where he studied art and architecture at the Politecnico di Milano in Milan and later at the Universita di Architetturà in Venice. He came to the United States in 1957 on a fellowship, and later returned to establish Vignelli Associates with his wife, Lella.

Characterized by The New York Times critic Paul Goldberger as “total designers,” the Vignelli’s designed for every domain: industrial and product design, advertising, identity, packaging, product, interior, architectural, magazine and newspaper design, exhibit design and environmental design.

Vignelli maintained a fierce commitment to correct design, holding that design alone should be an integral part of function. An avid fan of modernism, his work was intentionally clear and concise. His preference of Helvetica font is evident in much of his work.

Vignelli’s work has been published and exhibited throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, as well as the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Montreal.

He taught and lectured in major universities across the United States and abroad, including Harvard’s School of Design and Architecture. He was later involved in the publishing of “Vignelli: From A to Z,” a book that follows the course through a series of essays describing the principles of good design and in 2009, released “The Vignelli Canon,” a book for young designers looking to break into the industry.

In 2010, The Vignelli Center for Design Studies opened, a building designed by Massimo and Lella for the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, containing an archive of their design work.

Vignelli is a past president of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGl) and the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AlGA), and vice president of the Architectural League.  He has earned some of the design industry’s most prestigious awards, including  the AIGA Gold Medal (1983), the New York State Governor’s Award for Excellence (1993), the National Arts Club Gold Medal for Design (2004), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum (2005).

Mr. Vignelli’s legacy continues on in the design community. His popular saying, “keep it simple and it’ll last forever,” would become a telling final mantra and a testament to his greatness.

Author: Rachel Lowry

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