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Massimo Vignelli: An Inside Look Into the Life of a Brilliant Designer in NYC

Massimo Vignelli’s approach to any form of design at Vignelli Associates is simple: structure, specificity, and fun. In other words, a design needs organization, must follow a particular theme or direction, and must be creative and visually exciting to look at in its presentation. This philosophy has paid off for Massimo Vignelli who has an extensive portfolio of successes under his belt that include:

Graphic and Corporate Identity Program
Publication Design and Architectural Graphics
Interior design
Furniture design
Consumer Product Designs

Vignelli’s design talents have contributed to the success of many leading European and domestic industries. Two highly recognizable American companies that have benefited from Vignelli’s work are American Airlines and IBM. But the list does not stop there. The Architecture and Urbanism magazine (A+U) is based on Massimo’s format of graphic design. His influence in the world of furniture is seen through a number of well known furniture companies such as Poltrona Frau, Knoll, Casigliani, and Heller. The seating and signage of the Guggenheim Bilbao auditorium is also the handiwork of Massimo Vignelli. He has also produced a redesigned subway diagram to make traveling in NYC on the subway more efficient and more accurate for locals and tourists alike. Some of their most famous pieces include the Knoll Handkerchief Armchair, the Paperclip Table and the legendary Big Bench.

Forty years worth of commitment to perfection and an understanding of how to interpret different kinds of designs uniquely in daily life has earned Massimo Vignelli a permanent spot in many museums including the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the MoMa, the Musee de Arts Decoratif in Montreal, Canada and the Die Neue Sammlung in Munich, Germany.

Many who have worked with Massimo describe his personality as being outgoing, candid, and charismatic. He is very passionate and sometimes aggressive against designers who create work that is one dimensional and shallow in nature.

Lella Vignelli: Massimo Vignelli’s Partner in Life and in the World of Design

While Massimo Vignelli acts as the idea generator at Vignelli Associates, his wife, Lella is the design company’s stabilizer. Lella Vignelli personality is described as being more grounded, clever, driven, reserved, realistic, and extremely practical. Her training is in three dimensional architecture, and includes the practical side of how a design works on paper to its completion. Mrs. Vignelli has always been one step ahead of deadlines and budgets, and understands how to interact well with the outside world. Lella serves as editor and critic, by fine tuning ideas and using the best ones to fit a design concept.

Since their marriage in 1957 the Vignellis have always worked as partners. The Vignelli’s main concept is to use their talents to design the world in more innovative ways, and will be on display at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at RIT, in Rochester NY, which allows design students to get an in depth look at the progression of American design. Since 2000 Vignellis have moved their office to their home, and are conducting lectures, workshops, and critiques worldwide. A print and e-book version of the Vignelli Canon are now available, for anyone who’s looking for designing inspiration. The Vignelli office nurtures their design students, and still operates at full speed for diverse clients. For their accomplishments, the Vignellis have been selected to receive the AIGA Gold Medal for 1982.

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