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Know Your Designers: Massimo Vignelli: 1931-2014

We would like to celebrate the life and work of Massimo Vignelli whose work has influenced generations and delighted and intrigued (OK and angered) many.

Corporate Image and Naked Binder were created on the idea that “less is more” – clean design, less fuss and better function which was influenced in no small part by Massimo Vignelli the pioneering graphic and interior designer who died Tuesday morning in his Manhattan home. He was 83.

massimo Vignelli - 1931-2014 Modernist Designer

A native of Milan, where he lived with his wife and design collaborator, Lella, until 1965, Vignelli left a Modernist mark on his adopted city. At his peak influence, the designer’s reductionist, less-is-more touch could be seen everywhere in the city, from big-banner department stores likeBloomingdale’s, to the rarified interiors of St. Peter’s Church. The American Airline jetplane flying overhead bore the iconic logo he designed for the company in 1967. “If you can design one thing, you can design everything,” Vignelli was known to remark. This all-inclusive approach to design was, still is, an important lesson he imported from Italy to North America where designers continue to be haunted by over-specialization.

His most controversial design was destined for the underground. Vignelli’s 1972 subway map, which replaced geographical accuracy with geometric clarity, earned him great acclaim from his colleagues and, later, curators. (The MoMA included the map in its postwar design collection.) The design, however, proved extremely unpopular, drawing the ire of New York commuters who didn’t warm to its unsentimental depiction of Central Park, which Vignelli colored gray and made square-shaped. Beyond the muted color scheme and alienating shapes, passengers just had a hard time using the map, and instead, rallied for the “spaghetti” design of yore. After just seven years of use, they succeeded in retiring Vignelli’s masterpiece.

NY Subway map Massimo Vignelli - Corporate Image

Read more about Massimo Vignelli here at Metropolis


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