Today, the graphic design world lost a leader and an innovator. Internationally acclaimed modernist designer Massimo Vignelli passed away in Manhattan. He was 83.
Vignelli took a minimalist, readable, clear, and concise approach to identity design for clients including Ford, JCPenney, Bloomingdale’s and IBM.
If you’ve watched the documentary, Helvetica, you know his work … work that you might see in your daily life. One of his most appreciated and famous logo designs was for American Airlines in 1964. Until a much-criticized redesign last year, this logo has been for almost 50 years … unchanged and unchallenged. There isn’t a lot to challenge, sometimes less is more…and perfectly appropriate.
“There was no need to change. It’s been around for 45 years … Every other airline has changed its logo many times, and every time was worse than the previous one. Fifty years ago there were very few logos in general. Somebody started to do logos and people started thinking that logos were important … It’s ridiculous. A word is so much better.”
But, my favorite contribution of his was the iconic, streamlined NYC subway map design in 1972. Rather than relying on a mapmaker’s accuracy in plotting the subway lines, he took an approach that make the map streamlined and easier to decipher. A simple map showing starting and ending points of your subway travel in the city, kicked a mess of controversy. While a lot of people thought he was completely disregarding New York’s geography with this map, he was actually creating a beautiful “diagram of how to get from point A to point B”. It’s visual device (still used today) that changed the way New Yorkers and visitors find their way around this monster of a city.
He didn’t stop there. He created the legendary New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual. Check it out!
Massimo Vignelli will forever be a design influence and guru…as he should be.