A few years back I had the sublime pleasure of seeing Massimo Vignelli speak at a design conference. I snapped this photo with my phone when his definition of graphic design came up on the screen. Vignelli passed away this year, so it’s a good time to reflect on his career. You have seen his work— from his New York City subway map, to the classic American Airlines logo, to his melamine dinnerware for Heller. You can view some of his designs on Pinterest.
Vignelli’s influence permeates the design world. He was a modernist and a minimalist. His work eschewed decorative elements—everything had a purpose. He favored abstraction over realism. You’ll see lots of geometric shapes and the typeface Helvetica in his work. His graphic designs were structured on a grid.
Italian-born Vignelli, with his lifelong collaborator and wife Lella, designed across disciplines: print, architecture, clothing, furniture, interiors, and products. He said “If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” He certainly could!