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.