"If you can design one thing, you can design everything”
Massimo Vignelli was born in 1931 in Milan, Italy. He studied architecture in Milan and Venice from 1950 to 1953, but never completed his studies. Vignelli was a dedicated artist who saw no boundary between his job and his personal life, and he made everything he could. Among his numerous projects were packaging, housewares, furniture, public signs, posters, journals, newspapers, books, brands, churches, and wine labels.
Vignelli had dedicated his entire life to the art of design. Along with his architect wife, Lella, he spent his whole life working on a variety of industrial and product design projects. He also contributed significantly to the process of professionalisation. Vignelli was a vocal proponent of the modernist movement, believing that graphic design should be based on radical simplicity and the grid. He continues to inspire creative designers all across the world today.
Massimo and Lella Vignelli, an Italian husband-and-wife team, collaborated on a variety of design projects spanning the product, print, interior, and industrial sectors, and were clearly enthusiastic about the profession to which they had dedicated their lives. Lella's work was regularly featured in both domestic and international design journals. Following their marriage, in 1960, they founded the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan, specialising in office accessories, home items, graphics, and furniture. Pirelli and Olivetti, two of the most major Italian corporations at the time, were among their clientele. "Design is not art. Art is not useful, but design is,’’ Vignelli once stated.
In 1965, Vignelli co-founded the Unimark International Corporation (1965-1971), a graphics company, after emigrating to the United States. American Airlines, Knoll, and Bloomingdales were among their clientele at the time. Around this time, Vignelli utilised the Helvetica typeface, which helped it become as well-known as it is today. For example, he used it in his 1967 American Airlines logo, which was used until 2013. "We were all ready for it when Helvetica came out," said Vignelli. "It really had all the proper connotations that we were searching for, for anything that had to speak out loud and clear: contemporary."
He designed New York's modernist subway map in 1972. He adopted Helvetica for his new identity for the troubled subway system in New York, and it's still in use today. The subway map, according to Vignelli, was made up of two parts: lines that represented the direction trains were
travelling and dots that represented the stops along those routes. Vignelli's map “untangled’’ the NYC subway's mess and has since become the system's permanent identity. The simple coloured dots are profoundly ingrained in the minds of today's residents and visitors to the city. Unfortunately, the map was replaced by New York, although part of his reasoning is still present in the current edition, as is the condensed signage and dot system.
Vignelli Associates (Vignelli Designs) was created by him and Lella in 1978. Harmony, grace, and simplicity were the foundations of their aesthetic.