The Passing of a Master

Massimo Vignelli, a graphic designer whose Modernist vision inspired countless others, passed on Tuesday, at his home in New York City. Though he considered himself more of an “information architect,” Vignelli sought to convey concepts, ideas and places in the simplest, truest forms for all to understand. Clarity and coherence were the ideal in all the projects he touched, be it signage, books, shopping bags, kitchenware, etc.

His resolve for simplifying designs was key to his methodology and to his vision, which has also helped his designs stand the test of time. According to his obituary in the New York Times:

Mr. Vignelli’s work has been shown in North America and Europe. It is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, as well as museums in Philadelphia, Montreal, Jerusalem, Munich and Hamburg, Germany.

His clients included American Airlines, Ford, IBM, Xerox and Gillette. St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan had him design an entire church. His brochures for the National Park Service are still used. Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys all gave out Vignelli-designed shopping bags in the 1970s. He designed the signs for the New York and Washington subways and suggested the name Metro for the Washington system.

While not all his projects were deemed successes, most notably his 1972 NYC subway map, Vignelli stood behind the vision of his work and continued to push it. Last year, the M.T.A .incorporated an updated version of his subway diagram on its interactive website.

The breadth of Vignelli’s work is far reaching and global, though most outside of the design world, may not be able to immediately recognize a Vignelli piece in front of them. Great design provides a seamless experience and does not call attention to itself. His Heller dinnerware was a prime example. Vignelli was a master of great design and has made the world a better place fot it.

The Mall Fountain Reimagined

The fountain at the mall is a destination among the hustle and bustle.  It’s a place of gleeful excitement for children throwing coins (who am I kidding? I still like to throw coins in), a rest stop during a busy shopping trip or a meet up point for friends. Every great mall has a fountain. And now, artist Charles Long has reimagined the mall fountain with his sculpture, Fountainhead, installed at Dallas’s NorthPark Mall. Part of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Xchange program, Fountainhead is a virtual, interactive electronic sculpture that has dollar bills and coins projected on it, which gives the impression of water as they flow down. A zen-like soundtrack plays in the sculpture’s area. Three kiosks equipped with iPads border Fountainhead, each a donation point for one of three charities: Bookmarks, part of the Dallas Public Library located in NorthPark, Dallas CASA and the North Texas Food Bank. Here, visitors can make donations either by dropping coins in a slot or swiping a credit card. A coin will appear on the iPad that donors can flick towards the sculpture, where it makes a virtual splash.

Without a doubt, this sculpture grabbed my attention when I turned the corner at NorthPark. For as much as the fountain at the mall is a destination, it’s also expected and doesn’t change since they’re typically permanently installed, which is part of what makes this so cool. After soaking it all in, I immediately wondered how could this approach translate into something that brands could build on as a promotional show piece – maybe a giant virtual Brita filter sculpture fountain could be set up in Times Square or a huge virtual chocolate sculpture fountain could rain Reese’s Pieces at the NCAA Final Four. Or perhaps, brands could simply sponsor art in their retail space so that every time someone reads the artwork description or stops to make a donation, their logo reiterates brand recognition.

Again, this sculpture is a cool new take on an expected element in a busy retail environment. The fact that three local charities benefit as a result of the piece is a great bonus.

Video and Photo Credit: Emery Martin via Vimeo

Smarter Retail

How vital is Point of Sale to retailers? Important enough to strategically re-image even the most basic of tools.

Case in point, clothing retailers are now creating more and more remarkable mannequins. (See Stores Demand Mannequins with Personality in the NY Times for more interesting reading on this topic.)
Once glorified clothes hangers, mannequins are now gorgeous pieces of commissioned artwork, molded from the forms of professional athletes and famous runway models. Why? Because they sell more clothing.
That’s smart retail.
These evolved mannequins are great merchandising – you can see the clothes, get a better idea of fit, even imagine accessories (assuming they have fingers, ears and feet). The more fun and unusual the mannequin, the more customers stop and admire the clothes.
Bottom line – proactive POS is alive – and now more engaging than ever.