Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan, Italy, and then moved back and forth between Italy and America throughout his years. He was inspired by Swiss Modernists such as Max Huber and Antonio Boggeri, who drove him to graphic design. In 1953 he was employed as a designer at Venini Glass in Venice and also worked on some design work. He then moved to america and taught at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, and worked as a designer at Container Corporation of America. He then went back to Italy to work and teach, but ended up going back to the United States.
He had a very modern design technique, where he constructed projects such as the corporate identity for American Airlines (1967); the graphics for the United States National Park Service (1977); the subway map for the MTA New York City Transit Authority (1970); and the interior design of Saint Peter’s Church in New York (1977). He also has published a book called Design: Vignelli (1990).
His most famous design, though, was the subway map for the MTA New York City Transit Authority. This is his most famous project because of all the controversy that came along once it was actually published. With its sleek, modern design, he used 45 and 90 degree angles to make the map look clean and legible rather than completely accurate. When it first came out, people went crazy criticizing his design. They said that it was illogical that Central Park was only a small gray square rather then a long green rectangle for actual size and color. They were also confused with color of water not being blue. In 1979, the ended up replacing the map with a more geographical friendly one, but designers all over will know this Italian designers name because of this map. He also argues that he had made three more maps to go along with the main one but those were never published. For type purposes, he used Helvetica as the typeface for the map, which also was a big discussion for designers. He had based his ideas off a different map in London, but stood out with the modern use of Helvetica instead of another typeface. He also ended up talking in the movie Helvetica because of this. There is now an updated version of the map on the website.
Massimo Vignelli also has created a few typefaces, which is why he is so important for both Italian and American typography. He also had made a very bold statement, saying “we use too many typefaces.” People can agree or disagree that you only need a hand full of typefaces to be a good designer, but his statement caused a lot of chatter among designers.
Overall, Vignelli has made a huge impact on design in both Italy and the United States. He has designed and constructed some very controversial things of the time, which makes design all together grow. He has inspired a lot of future designers, and is a great example of how Italian and American design can come together.
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