Massimo Vignelli Will Be Sorely Missed

A fond farewell to Massimo Vignelli, who died on May 27, 2014. A tour de force in the graphics design world, he is considered one of the brightest stars in a constellation of European modern designers who influenced American graphics in the 20th century. When commissioned to design a promotional calendar for the Stendig furniture company, he produced a simple black and white grid of numbers that was so visually striking that it became part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art before the first calendar was published in 1966.

Almost 50 years later, the Vignelli calendar remains a timeless addition to modern homes and offices – a reminder of what modern design should be. Fitz and I recommend the Vignelli Max 365 Perpetual Wall Calendar to all our customers as a staple of modern interior design. We also happen to have a Vignelli vase we received as a wedding present. It still sits serenely in our studio – exuding the genius that was Massimo Vignelli.

META: Farewell to Massimo Vignelli

I was so saddened to hear that Massimo Vignelli, a tour de force in the graphics design world, passed away on Tuesday of this week. An iconoclast who defied conventional wisdom, he redefined and influenced modern design in all genres during the 20th century. Fitz and I first fell in love with him when we received a Sasaki teapot he created as a wedding gift and it still sits serenely in our studio. Unassuming but bold, it embodies the genius of Vignelli – joyous functionality in a timeless icon.

He once said that “If you can design one thing, you can design everything” and he did – logos for American Airlines and IBM; shopping bags for Saks 5th Avenue; brochures for the National Park service; sleek modern furniture; and even an entire church in Manhattan (which must be seen to be believed: http://saintpeters.org/the-arts-and-design/vignelli-design/gallery/).

His mantra was intellectual elegance, a combination of clarity and simplicity that telegraphed ideas and functionality. He could infuse the most mundane and ubiquitous objects with newfound utility and beauty. When commissioned to design a promotional calendar for the Stendig furniture company, he produced a simple black and white grid of numbers that was so visually striking that it became part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art before the first calendar was published.

His trans-formative powers were astonishing – when I think of all of the unimaginative, lifeless promotional calendars thrust upon me over the years, his ability to soar above the pedestrian is a testament to his genius. Today, his calendars grace the walls of modern homes and offices all over the world.

In fact, Fitzsu carries the Max 365 Perpetual Wall Calendar, a version that features the familiar Helvetica font for every day of the year.

The creations of Massimo Vignelli always make me smile – they seem to barely conceal a wink from the beholder and yet serve their purpose efficiently. From everything I’ve read and heard about this revered artist, they reflect his personality. He once said that he would have liked the job of developing a corporate identity for the Vatican. “I would go to the pope and say, ‘Your Holiness, the logo is O.K., (referring to the cross), but everything else has to go.’”

A free copy of his book, The Vignelli Canon, is available to download at: www.vignelli.com/canon.pdf If you love design as we do, it is a fascinating glimpse into how and why he played such a pivotal role in modern design.

More Than a Wordsmith