Vignelli: From A to Z - Massimo and Lella Vignelli

Vignelli is a modernist graphic designer. Scratch that, Vignelli is the modernist graphic designer. He brought Helvetica to the United States. He designed everything from teaspoons to buildings. He's done furniture, clothes, magazines, books and whole corporate identities. American Airlines, the US National Parks, the NY subway, even our own GNER, all his stuff.

He has strong views on design. The clean, the minimalist... the quiet, I suppose. It's not that he's against confusion as such - he likes ambiguity, but dislikes messiness, the profusion of fonts, and so on. Perhaps the problem of other designers trying to put too much into their designs, and not just going straight to a simple, clean solution. I think he wants 'objective' design.

I think what he doesn't realise is that when he's creating these clean, minimalist designs, they're still shouting his name! By making something cleaned-up and pared-down, you may well be adding much more subtext and baggage, not taking it away. Helvetica as a choice of font isn't neutral. It's saying something. Vignelli, by making these things his own, is actually encouraging other designers to move away from this in order to find their own voices!

This book is an alphabetically-organised strip of mini-essays on various topics that take his fancy, nicely illustrated with work taken from over the spread of his career and that of his wife's. The design is generally pretty lovely, being what you'd expect, only let down by the occasional spelling mistake! Overall, it's surprisingly personal in places, and it makes a great snapshot of what they're all about.

Posted 2008-12-15.