Lella and Massimo Vignelli

"Design is one." - Lella & Massimo Vignelli

Lella & Massimo Vignelli

Lella and Massimo Vignelli were among the world’s most influential designers. They brought clarity and coherence to innumerable projects.

Massimo Vignelli began his training as a 16-year-old draftsman at the Architects Castiglione in Milano. There he learned Adolf Loos’ axiom that an architect should be able to design everything from the spoon to the city.

Massimo said, “From that day, I wanted to design everything…and I have…no cities yet, but lots of spoons!"

Lella and Massimo Vignelli Design

Lella Vignelli was born in Udine to a family of architects. She and Massimo shared a vision of design that influenced all their work, as architecture was in her blood.

In their book "Design is One" from 2004, they said that if you can design one thing, you can design everything. The idea is that designing one thing means you have the ability to design anything. The methodology is the same no matter what the subject.”

According to the Vignellis, design should be “semantically correct, syntactically consistent, pragmatically understandable, visually powerful, Intellectually elegant, and timeless”.

Lella and Massimo Vignelli The Rare Essentials

Throughout their long and productive career, the Vignellis put these principles into practice. From 1957 – 1960, after training as architects in Italy, the couple went to the US on fellowships. Here it became clear that their mission was “Better design for a better world.” The Saratoga furniture and Heller's melamine stacking dinnerware both showcase a strict and clear design style.

The Vignellis settled permanently in the US and in 1965 co-founded the American branch of Unimark International. This design consultancy created distinctive corporate identities for companies such as American Airlines, Ford, Knoll International, the Transit Authorities of New York City and Washington, DC – and for Heller.

In 1971, the Vignellis started their own office in New York called Vignelli Associates. They worked on a variety of projects that were impressive in their size and design.

These include graphic design programs for the United States National Park Service, Bloomingdales, Lancia, Fratelli Rossetti, The Guggenheim, the Salone del Mobile, and Benetton; showrooms for Poltrona Frau, Steelcase, Italcenter, Hauserman, and Artemide, interiors for the Minneapolis Museum of Fine Arts, Joseph Magnin, The United States Postal Service, and Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan; exhibits for the Louvre and BMW; furniture such as the Handkerchief chair (Knoll, 1982-1987), products for the Ciga hotels and Heller, and books for many publishers.

Based on the motto, “If you can’t find it, design it,” the Vignellis also designed their own clothing line.

Lella and Massimo Vignelli

Through their long career, Lella and Massimo Vignelli took advantage of their various strengths, working together and separately. Massimo perceived what could be done, and Lella perceived what can be done. Their art is in museums all over the world, like MoMA, the Met, and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

The Vignellis received many awards. Massimo won graphic design awards worldwide and Lella won awards for interiors. In 2003 they received the National Design Lifetime Achievement award.

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