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Massimo Vignelli: Farewell to a Legend

Luminaire says farewell to legendary designer Massimo Vignelli who passed away at the age of 83 in New York on May 27, 2014.
Luminaire says farewell to legendary designer Massimo Vignelli who passed away at the age of 83 in New York on May 27, 2014.

Luminaire says farewell to legendary designer Massimo Vignelli who passed away at the age of 83 in New York on May 27, 2014. He left behind a graphic landscape forever changed by his groundbreaking designs. Vignelli’s modernist interpretation shaped numerous industries from the controversial New York City subway map to the corporate Identity of American Airlines as well as numerous instantly recognizable corporate logos. Working firmly within the modernist tradition, Vignelli aimed to create design that was “visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless.”

As a teen, Vignelli became enthralled with design and befriended many of the great architects of his day, asserting that he spent his youth as an “architecture groupie.”

Vignelli trained in architecture in Milan and Venice, while his wife Lella studied the same discipline at the University of Venice and MIT. In 1960, they established the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan and later established the Vignelli Associates in New York, devoted to the design of corporate identity, products, and furniture.

The Vignelli’s are extremely versatile designers whose work is distinguished by clean, bold lines, pure color and the use of basic geometric forms. Besides winning major design awards, the designer’s work is exhibited at museums including the MoMA, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, as well as museums around the globe.

In 1982, the Vignelli’s were awarded the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) gold medal; in 1973 the American Institute of Architects’ industrial design medal; the first US Presidential Design Award, presented by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the National Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Museum of Design at Cooper-Hewitt, New York..

Luminaire has hosted several events with the Vignellis in previous years, including lectures and book signings in both Miami and Chicago. In 1986, Luminaire introduced Massimo Vignelli to Miami through its Lecture Series with a brilliant presentation by Vignelli that had the Miami audience elated to connect with the design legend and learn of the far-reaching affect of his and Lella’s work.

In 2006, Luminaire contacted some designer friends to raise funds to help the fight against cancer and awareness within the design world. This initiative became PuppyLove, and part of the larger Love Series. Lella & Massimo Vignelli created SILVERINO, a chrome plated puppy that playfully engaged with the audience. The clean design and choice of material while communicating good design effectively is a testament to the Vignelli’s vision of life. In 2008, Massimo and Lella collaborated with Beatriz Cifuentes and Yoshiki Waterhouse to create a piece for PaperLove, an exhibition and auction held during Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami to raise funds for cancer research. The final product, the New York SubWay Diagram, 2008, presented an updated version of the diagram that they designed in 1972, a more readable, cleanly classic alternative to an official map. Both a historical piece and a designer’s dream, New York SubWay Diagram, 2008, was auctioned during PaperLove to raise much needed funds to find a cure for cancer.

In 2009, during Design+World organized by Luminaire, Massimo shared with us a video message of his design philosophy of establishing a language that people can use in their daily lives.

Earlier this month, Vignelli’s son, Luca, sent out an unusual and touching request: that anyone who had been influenced or inspired by his father’s work send him a letter. Designers from all over the world penned notes of appreciation, awe, and gratitude to the man who’s been called the “grandfather of graphic design.” Many posted those letters online as well, with the hashtag #dearmassimo. The outpouring of love from the design community is perhaps a stronger testament to Vignelli’s influence than even the most prestigious award.

The founders of our company, Nargis and Nasir Kassamali, were close friends of Massimo for more than 30 years.

“We will miss you dearly, old friend” -Nargis and Nasir Kassamali

May 2014