REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT

Borrowing the title for this post from the 1956 Peabody Award Winning Rod Serling teleplay is a most appropriate way to mark the passing of an undisputed “heavyweight champion” of design and creativity, Massimo Vignelli. From the liquid lines of his handkerchief armchairs for Knoll, designed with David Law, to his controversial poster design for the New York City Subway System, his work has been a constant reminder why he has been a master in the grammar of design for more than half a century.HANDKERCHIEF CHAIR

I was always struck by the directness and clarity of his design philosophy, best summed up in this quote taken from his free e-book published in 2009 looking back at his and his company’s work: “We think good Design is always an expression of creative strength bringing forward clear concepts expressed in beautiful form and color, where every element expresses the content in the most forceful way.”

Every time I unlock my iPhone I’m reminded of him, and while the flat icons have an almost “un-designed” quality to their execution, I can’t help but think that the designers were channeling Mr. Vignelli, either consciously or unconsciously. In all honesty, I had forgotten so many of the wonderful designs he created and it was only upon reading of his passing that I sought to refresh my creative memory. I’ve spent the last few days “clicking” through archives of his work and was both amazed and refreshed. Amazed at rediscovering the scope of his work. Refreshed by the timelessness of great designs, his designs.

The Wall Street Journal noted his passing in a recent article that chronicles Mr. Vignelli’s design career with a brevity that befits his creative philosophy. A philosophy that is well represented in another of his quotes: “Everything that is around us, this table, this chair, this lamp, this pen has been designed. All of these things, everything has been designed by somebody. I think that it is my responsibility to make the work better than it is.”