By Anne Leader
Graphic designer Massimo Vignelli was born on 10 January 1931 in Milan. He trained there and in Venice and first worked in the United States while on a fellowship in the late 1950s. He returned to the US in 1966 to establish the New York branch of Unimark International, one of the world’s largest design firms. He started his own firm, Vignelli Associates, with his wife Lella in 1971.
Vignelli’s hand can be found in numerous well-known corporate logos and headquarters, including branding and interior design for American Airlines, IBM, Xerox, Ford, Gillette, and Bloomingdale’s. He may be best known for his design for the New York City Subway System signage and a map that while recognized as efficient and accurate, never found popularity among New York City riders. Vignelli’s work can also be found in the permanent collections of several museums in his adopted home: the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Collections in Philadelphia, Montreal, Jerusalem, Munich and Hamburg, Germany also have Vignelli designs among their holdings. Vignelli died in New York in 2014.
New York Subway Map, Massimo Vignelli, 1972
Massimo Vignelli in 2013, at The Bronx Design and Construction Academy, working with Publicolor, a nonprofit that brings together architects and public school students. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
Corporate Branding for American Airlines
Calendars showing Vignelli’s aesthetic of design simplicity
Heller Stacking Dishes, designed in 1964 by Lella and Massimo Vignelli. Vignelli Associates/First Run Features
Lella and Massimo standing in front of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies during construction. RIT, Rochester, New York
Vignelli Design Montage