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MASSIMOVIGNELLI A prolific Italian born designer known for his timeless and minimalistic designs. Vignelli believed that designers have a responsibility to create designs that are functional and long lasting. He works firmly within the Modernist tradition, and focuses on simplicity through the use of basic geometric forms in all his work.

Early Life Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan, Italy in 1931. As a teenager, he became obsessed with design and befriended many of the great architects of his day. He went on to study architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and later at the University of Venice. Although his early studies in Milan and Venice were more centered around architecture, Vignelli would soon find his niche in the two-dimensional plane. From 1957 to 1960, Vignelli visited America on a fellowship, and returned to New York in 1965 to co-found a New York branch of a new company, Unimark International, which quickly became one of the largest design firms in the world.

Unimark International Book (2009)

Unimark International Massimo Vignelli co-found the legendary design firm Unimark in 1965 with colleagues Ralph Eckerstrom, Bob Noorda, James Fogelman, Wally Gutches, and Larry Klein. Unimark designed many of the world’s most well known corporate identities, such as Ford, Gillette, JC Penney, and many others. Although the firm was short-lived (65-77), it had a major influence on the direction of American design. The firm with Vignelli as design director, was a leader in establishing a modernist direction for corporate design that is still widely followed today. The graphic style of Unimark’s projects was undoubtedly modernist. The typeface Helvetica was widely, and almost exclusively, used by Unimark designers.

Ford (1971) JC Penney (1971)

American Airlines In 1967 Massimo Vignell, under Unimark, was commissioned by Henry Dreyfuss (designer and consultant to AA) to create a corporate identity for American Airlines. His design was a very modern logo in Helvetica, and described it as “a half-red, halfblue in plain type stressing the professional, no gimmick attitude of the company in the colors of its home nation.” The company forced Vignelli to incorporate the eagle, which he was unfond of. In 2013, American Airlines rebranded itself with a new corporate identity, which greatly upset Vignelli. He was quoted saying “There’s no need to change it. The logo doesn’t need change. The whole world knows it, and there’s a tremendous equity. It’s incredibly important on brand recognition. I will not be here to make a bet, but this (new logo) won’t last another 25 years.”

American Airlines (1967-2013)

American Airlines (2013)

Vignelli Associates In 1971 Vignelli resigned from Unimark because the design vision which he supported “became diluted as the company diversified and increasingly stressed marketing, rather than design.� In the same year, Vignelli and his wife Lella founded Vignelli Associates, based in New York, which still runs today. A much more broad company than Unimark, Vignelli Associates deals with graphic design, furniture design, interior design, environmental design, package design, product design, and architecture design.

The Saratoga (1964)

NYC Subway Map In 1972, Vignelli was tasked with recreating the New York City subway map. His design took many artistic liberties (Central Park represented as a square), but made the system incredibly easy to read, and is still hailed as a timeless piece of graphic design today. The map wasn’t radical; it was heavily inspired by the London Underground map, but succeeded in it’s purpose of defining a clear, easy to read system. Each line was represented as a different color, and each stop was represented by a dot. To make the map more clear, each line was shown as either a 45 or 90 degree angle, which wasn’t accurate. Because of Vignelli’s abstract liberties, the map was replaced in 1979. In 2008, Vignelli revisited his design, and made it more accurate and efficient.

Vignelli’s Subway Map (1972-1979)

Vignelli’s Subway Map (2008)

Unigrid System In 1977, Vignelli created a simple unigrid system for the National Park Service. The system allowed the NPS to create brochures easily and consistently, and for them to be easily recognizable. All national park brochure and guide books were now standardized, and much cheaper to produce. The design was simple a black bar across the top and bottom with white text set in Helvetica. Incredibly, the design is still used today.

Vignelli’s Unigrid (1977)

Vignelli’s Legacy Massimo Vignelli continues to work with his wife Lella at Vignelli Associates to this day. All the while he has maintained his Modernist approach to all design problems. “We brought discipline to design, we are systematic, logical and objective – not trendy. Trends kill the soul of design. Modernism took out all the junk, and postmodernism put it all back in.” Examples of his work can be seen in the permanent collections of many museums, including the US Museum of Modern Art and the International Design Museum in Munich; but the biggest collection is at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where they donated their own archive in 2010.

Ducati (1998)

New York Subway Graphics (1966)

Vignelli’s Legacy Massimo Vignelli has also taught design at many major international colleges and universities, including Harvard, and held leadership positions at the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and the Architectural League. Throughout his entire career, Vignelli has received countless awards and honorary doctrates for his design and architectural work. He was also featured in the graphic design/typography documentary film Helvetica. With a professional career that now spans 50 years, Massimo Vignelli has made contributions to the design world and continues to serve as an influential leader in the field.

Helvetica (2007)

St. Peters, NY Interiors (1977)

“I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless.�

Citations “Vignelli Associates.” Welcome to Vignelli Associates. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Massimo Vignelli.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Massimo Vignelli Biography.” Massimo Vignelli Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Art Directors Club / Hall of Fame.” Art Directors Club / Hall of Fame. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Massimo Vignelli | Biography, Life, Work, Logos and Awards.” Famous Logos RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Matterandvignelli.” Matterandvignelli. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Vignelli’s Unigrid System | Sudbury Design Society.” Sudbury Design Society Vignellis

“Iconic Logo Designers.” Iconic Logo Designers. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “American Airlines Rebrand Upsets Massimo Vignelli.” Phaidon. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Massimo And Lella Vignelli: Designs That Will Outlive Mankind.” Noupe. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Vignelli Design.” Vignelli Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “ | New York Subway Map (1972).” | New York Subway Map (1972). N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “The Vignelli Subway Map Goes Digital.” The New Yorker. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. “Eye Magazine.” Eye Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013.

Corporate Identity and International Style : Massimo Vignelli  

A brief history of the legendary designer.

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