Vignelli Associates by Steven Lamont

Describing the Vignelli style as spare, “essential, intellectually elegant, strong, timeless”, the Vignelli’s have engineered innovative design for some of the world’s leading American and European companies. Vignelli Associates of New York is a progressive design firm specializing in everything from package and product design to furniture to public signage. Established in 1971 by Italian duo Lella and Massimo Vignelli, the two joined forces in 1960 after extensive educational experiences. Lella, receiving a degree from the School of Architecture at the University of Venice and later becoming a registered architect in Milan in 1962. Massimo studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and later at the Università di Architettura, Venice. With the establishment of their business, and the creation of their new subsidiary Vignelli Design, the Vignelli’s went to take on high-profile companies such as IBM and American Airlines.[1]

The American Airlines identity and branding created in 1967, is one of the firms most recognized projects, revered for its subtle, yet effective design. One Vignelli’s most iconic peaces of work are the New York subway, transportation graphics. This exponential project exemplifies the Vignelli all encompassing approach to design. Direct in its comprehension of New York City transit and even color appropriate to discourage graffiti vandalism. This project also included the very recognizable subways themselves. With a unique retro feel, the Vignelli group were able to create subway interiors that were classic to the time, but maintain a freshness through the 21st century. In 1985 the Vignelli offices were relocated to a midtown skyline in New York City. A grand space, with plenty of design studios and conference rooms, the Vignelli’s were quoted saying “Our office became a place where we could experiment with spaces and new materials.” Today the Vignelli Associates office space is considered one of their most successful projects. Complete with crisp Kaufman white walls and gray Dexotec floors, the office is modern and chic. This inspired more interior design projects for the fledgling firm, including Canal+ in Paris, AT&T building in New York City, the ARCO tower in Dallas, TX and most notably Saint Peter’s Church. One of New York’s most visited worship establishments, the Vignelli described the project as needing a “high degree of flexibility.” With moveable pews that convert into additional seating, the church acts a conference space, theater and concert hall. The furniture in the church is reminiscent of the Vignelli’s 1964, Poltronova Saratoga furniture. Recognizable by its boxy design, with hard edges, both sets of furniture were contrasted with plush interiors.[2]
Continuing in the tradition of universal design, Vignelli Associates have maintained an extensive partnership with Knoll international. This project finds the design team working on everything from print ads to posters, to collaborations on product design. The group designed a one-of-a-kind Knoll Handkerchief chair that is clever, modern and comfortable. Another very recognizable project of the Vignelli group is the United Colors of Bennetton identity. The project included the logo, labels, packaging and signage, also being asked to create a detail manual of standards and presentation for all stores internationally.[3] Vignelli Associates has had work exhibited in collections of several museums including the museum of modern art, the metropolitan museum of art, and recently donating a portion of their work to the Rochester Institute of Technology. The Vignelli’s have written two books “VIGNELLI: FROM A TO Z” and “The Vignelli Canon” which is available for free download on his website.

[1] Vignelli Associates.(2010). Hickory Business Furniture. http://www.hbf.com/Designers/Designer.aspx?DesignerID=41 (accessed in April 27, 2010).

[2] Recent, (2008). http://www.vignelli.com/intro.html, (accessed in April 27, 2010).

[3] Massimo Vignelli. 21 May 2006. http://www.designboom.com/eng/interview/vignelli.html. (accessed in April 27, 2010).

[4] Massimo Vignelli and Associates. 11 November 2006 . http://eclectica.co.uk/massimo-vignelli-vignelli-associates/. (accessed in April 27, 2010).

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