What do the big brown bag, NYC Subway map and handkerchief chair have in common?

Untitled-2They were all created by the Italian graphic designer, Massimo Vignelliand chances are you have seen these items before.AA&Bloomingdales

Vignelli passed away earlier this year on May 27, but his iconic designs will always be remembered – from producing the American Airlines logo to standardizing the entire New York City subway system signage. Outside of corporate logos, Vignelli’s influence is spread throughout home interior designs, book covers, shopping bags, and even kitchenware.

“Design is not a style. It’s an attitude. We don’t like ‘limp’ design. Sweet and delicate is not us. We like design that has strength,” said Massimo and his wife Lella Vignelli in an interview with Elle Decor.

Vignelli’s Modernist design style exemplifies a strong appreciation for clarity, coherence, and functional beauty. He did not want to design for the sake of art, but for the purpose of civilizing information on platforms such as newsletters, books, and pamphlets. That is why Vignelli thought of himself as more of an information architect than a graphic designer. There is no point in producing design that is not understandable to the reader. A good design organizes information in a way that is clear and visually pleasing.

Vignelli also carried this way of thinking into interior design. In the film Design is One, Massimo and his wife Lella are documented as two of the world’s most influential designers.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli Designs

It is apparent in his designs how much Vignelli loved simplicity and the typeface Helvetica.

“What did I want to do in my life? It’s pretty ambitious, but I was always seeking to affect the lives of millions of people, you know – not through politics, not through entertainment, not through other things, but through design. … Only history can tell how this work will stand up.”

For a graphic designer, it would be amazing to create one piece of work that is easily recognized by masses.

For Vignelli, his subway map is still being used after he created it 44 years ago and it is remarkable how well known his other works are. This goes to show the importance of clarity in one’s design. If done well, the design can last a lifetime.


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