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 Vignelli_wiki
Photo: Asheind

“Styles come and go. Good design is a language, not a style.” That quote by Massimo Vignelli elegantly summed up his philosophy of design — and, by the way, what did he do that was not elegantly done?

Mr. Vignelli died yesterday at the age of 83 after a long illness. Born in Milan and trained as an architect in Milan and Venice, he was an admirer of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, and spent a lifetime translating the concept of “functional beauty” into everything he designed. He was the leading “modernist” graphic designer, striving for disciplined, intelligent and simplified solutions based on timeless geometric forms. A biography accompanying the presentation of the AIGA Medal to he and his wife states:  “Vignelli design, in both three dimensions and two, is highly architectural in character. Massimo’s posters, publications and graphic designs seem to be built in stories, separated by the now-familiar, bold, horizontal rules. Basic geometry is respected. The investigative design process moves from the inside out: ‘The correct shape is the shape of the object’s meaning.’ The Vignelli commitment to the correctness of a design has taken their work beyond the mechanical exercise of devising a form best suited to a given function. They’ve always understood that design itself, in the abstract, could and should be an integral part of function.”

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There are three responses to a piece of design —
yes, no, and WOW!
WOW is the one to aim for.
– Milton Glaser, named the Most Influential Graphic Designer of the Past 50 Years

The details are not the details.
They make the design.
— Charles Eames

If you can design one thing,
you can design everything.
— Massimo Vignelli, named one of the Most Influential Designers of the Past 50 Years

Design can be art.
Design can be aesthetics.
Design is so simple,
that’s why it is so complicated.
— Paul Rand

 

Practice safe design: Use a concept.
Petrula Vrontikis

What works good is better that what looks good,
because what works good lasts.
— Ray Eames

Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product
of a good idea and modest expectations.
—Paul Rand

When you make something
no one hates, no one loves it.
— Tibor Kalman

They always say time changes things,
but you actually have to change them yourself.
— Andy Warhol

 

Failure is built into creativity… the creative act involves this element of ‘newness’ and ‘experimentalism,’ then one must expect and accept the possibility of failure.
— Saul Bass  

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1990-january-vignelli

Today is the birthday of Massimo Vignelli. When I first met him some five decades ago, I was wearing pajamas. But I am getting ahead of the story.

Mr. Vignelli’s grace, style, and talent has been a constant source of astonishment to all who know him — not to mention a source of reportage in GDUSA over the entire 50 year lifespan of the magazine. As we prepared for our 50th anniversary editions of GDUSA magazine, I came upon quotes by Mr. Vignelli in both the January 1980 and January 1990 editions. In 1990, for example, he glimpsed the future of design and wrote: “The challenge of design should be met by responsible  and well-educated professionals, otherwise design will fail its task and we will be polluted by meaningless products. Design without culture becomes kitsch. Design that follows trends is totally irresponsible. The design task for the nineties is more than ever a design really integrated in the production process. At the level of production, the computer will play a bigger role. No one can do a stupid job in an intelligent way better than a computer.” No one sees things more clearly or says them more convincingly.

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