Design Legend Massimo Vignelli


“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.”
Massimo Vignelli


Massimo Vignelli (10-Jan-1931 to 27-May-2014) iconic modernist graphic designer who drew ideas from the works of Mies van de Rohe and Le Corbusier. With his citrus fruit-salad colours and bold typography, Vignelli’s modernist aesthetic has contributed to create a simpler, clearer world that still inspires artists and will inspire for generations to come.


Early Training:

– At 16 he began his career in design by training as a draftsman at the Architects Castiglione in Milano
Architecture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan (1948 to 1950 – transfer)
Architecture at the Politecnico, Milan (1950 to 1953 – transfer)
Designer at Venini Glass in Venice (1953)
Architecture at the School of Architecture, University of Venice (1953 to 1957 – finished)

Selected Works by Massimo Vignelli:

– The Venice Biennale posters (1963-4)


– Stacking dinnerware (1964–7) for Heller Designs Inc.


– Knoll International


– Bloomingdales’ Big Brown Bag


– Bar Set, Sterling Silver, made by San Lorenzo S.p.A., Milan (1971)


– Signage of Minneapolis Museum of Fine Art (1974)


– ‘Metafore’ by Casigliani (1979)


– Vignelli Paper Clip Table (1980) for Knoll International, New York


– ‘Handkerchief Chair’ (1982–7) for Knoll International, New York


– Graphic Design of New York subway


– Graphic Design of Washington, DC, Metro


– Interior design of Saint Peter’s Church in New York (1977)


– Interior design of Vignelli Associates Office (1985)


– Signage of Guggenheim Bilbao Museum (1998)


Selected Books and Articles about Massimo Vignelli:

1982 hall of fame: massimo vignelli. Art Directors Club. Written by Emilio Ambasz (1982)
Design Is One (2004)
– Profile of Massimo and Leila Vignelli. Designweek (2006)
– massimo vignelli of vignelli associates (interview). designboom (2006)
Vignelli: From A to Z (2007)
An Interview with Massimo Vignelli.
 Grafik Magazine (181). Written by Purcell, Kerry William (2009)
– Mr. Vignelli’s Map. Designobserver (2010)
– The Vignelli Canon (2010)
Massimo Vignelli, el disenador absoluto. El Pais. (2014)

Selected Films and Documentaries about Massimo Vignelli:

– Visions of Massimo Vignelli (list of video interviews). Stock Exchange of Visions.
– Helvetica. A documentary film by Gary Hustwit
– Design Is One: The Vignellis
– Massimo Vignelli Makes Books by Pentagram on Vimeo (2013)

Selected Awards to Massimo Vignelli:

Gran Premio Triennale di Milano (1964)
Compasso d’Oro, Italian Association for Industrial Design (ADI) (1964 & 1998)
Industrial Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) (1973)
Art Directors Club Hall of Fame (1982)
AIGA Gold Medal (1983)
Presidential Design Award, presented by USA President Ronald Reagan (1985)
Honorary Doctorate in Architecture from the University of Venice, Italy
Honorary doctorates in Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design (New York), Pratt Institute (Brooklyn), Rhode Island School of Design (Providence), the Corcoran School of Art (Washington D.C), the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena), and the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester)
– National Design Lifetime Achievement Award (2003)

by Mia Pujol, ESARQ-UIC Publications Team

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