Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli

Nationality: Italian

Born: 1931

Died: May 2014

Famous for: giving America a modern look


Massimo Vignelli Subway Graphic Design

1972, Vignelli’s New York City Subway map


Massimo Vignelli Famous Logo Designer American Airlines

Vignelli Graphic Design Work for American Airlines

Vignelli created the “AA” logo used by American Airlines up until 2013


Massimo Vignelli Furniture Design

Vignelli was a proficient product designer with an example above of his “stacking chair” design


Massimo Vignelli Famous Graphic Designer

Poster design for Knoll International


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Massimo Vignelli Biography


“If you can design one thing, you can design everything,” was the ethos of the late Italian designer, Massimo Vignelli.

At age 16, Vignelli began studying and working with a local architect.

Then, at 18, he studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and later at the Universita di Architettura in Venice.

After visiting the USA on a fellowship from 1957-1960, Vignelli returned to NYC in 1966.

He started the New York branch of Unimark International, which became on of the largest design firms in the world (from which he resigned in 1971).

During this period, Vignelli designed the iconic New York City Subway signage.

This was not without controversy, as he had focused on creating the subway lines into a neat, clear diagram instead of striving for geographical accuracy.

In 1957, Vignelli married Lella, a designer whom he had met at an architecture convention.

Massimo and Lella moved to the USA permanently in 1965 and later founded their design firm Vignelli Associates in 1971.

High profile clients at the company included Bloomingdale’s, American Airlines, IBM and Knoll. Vignelli’s work spanned a vast array of areas.

From homeware and furniture design to public signage and showroom design, he worked firmly within the Modernist tradition.

The Vignelli Center For Design Studies opened in September 2010.

Massimo himself said of it, “The Vignelli Center for Design Studies will house our comprehensive archive of graphic design, furniture and objects… the centre will foster studies related to Modernist design with programs and exhibitions on our work as well as other related subjects.”

Vignelli died at his home in Manhattan in May 2014, aged 83.

In his last days, his son, Luca, asked that anyone who had been inspired by his father’s work to send a letter.

What resulted was an outpouring of love from the design community for the man who became known as the “grandfather of graphic design”.


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Massimo Vignelli Quotes


“If you can design one thing, you can design everything.”


“The life of a designer is a life of fight: fight against the ugliness.”


“It is better to starve than get a bad client.”


“I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all, timeless.”


“One life is too short for doing everything.”


“If you do it right, it will last forever.”



Massimo Vignelli Books:


Massimo Vignelli BooksThe Vignelli Canon
Massimo Vignelli

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Massimo Vignelli A-to-Z BookVignelli from A to Z
Massimo Vignelli

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Vignelli Books DesignThe Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Places
David Gibson

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1 Comment

  1. Kornelia Santoro

    Great article, for me this is the perfect mixture of visuals and words, long enough to give an idea about the man, short enough to read it in a few minutes.


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