The Design Observer Group
Observatory

WEEKLY EMAIL: SEPTEMBER 17, 2010


Lella Vignelli

FEATURED THIS WEEK : MICHAEL BIERUT

Lella Vignelli

Thirty years ago this summer, I graduated from design school in Ohio and moved to New York to take a job at Vignelli Associates. Even then, Massimo Vignelli was a legend. Other designers who heard where I would be working always seemed to have a story about him. Only a few of these were true, but most of were outrageous. I knew next to nothing about Lella Vignelli, Massimo's wife and partner, alongside whom he had been working for his whole career. I remember running into a former Vignelli Associates intern. "Oh, wait till you meet Lella," he said, mysteriously.

Over the next ten years, I learned an enormous amount from Massimo about how to be a good designer. But I learned how to be a successful designer from Lella. 

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STEVEN HELLER

Heller on Heller

When I was a kid the other kids in school used to joke that I was going straight to Hell because my name was Heller. If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times…a day. And I'd be lying — and probably would go straight to Hell — if I didn't say the joke got tired very quickly. Then came Hellerware designed by the Vignellis.
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THE EDITORS

New Season of Design Matters with Debbie Millman

We are pleased to announce that Season Six of Design Matters with Debbie Millman will premiere on Observer Media this Friday at 3pm with a legendary guest, none other than Massimo Vignelli — during our week-long celebration of Lella and Massimo Vignelli.
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MICHAEL BIERUT

Dot Zero

Dot Zero was a remarkable publication that is little known today. Designed by Massimo Vignelli as the house organ of pioneering design consultancy Unimark, Dot Zero was published only five times between 1966 and 1968. Its mission was described in its inaugural issue: "It will deal with the theory and practice of visual communication from varied points of reference, breaking down constantly what used to be thought of as barriers and are now seen to be points of contact." The list of contributors was astonishing for its time, and the topics it covered (new technologies, transportation graphics, semiotics) were not addressed in the mainstream design press then, and indeed in come cases would not be discussed elsewhere in such depth for decades. What does Massimo Vignelli say today about this attempt to revolutionize design publishing?
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ALICE TWEMLOW

Massimo Vignelli's Desk

A glimpse of someone's workspace inevitably brings out the amateur analyst in us, or at least the voyeur. We snoop around other peoples' desks because we think we will learn something — and hopefully something profound — about the kind of person who works there.
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ANNOTATED BY JULIE LASKY

Massimo Vignelli vs. Ed Benguiat (Sort Of)

Philip B. Meggs: Pardon me, Emigre has won some important design awards. Why is it garbage?

Massimo Vignelli: Maybe you should be one of the design judges.
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STEVEN HELLER

Vignelli's Herald (or Heralding Vignelli)

I remember like it was yesterday. It was a cold, damp day (or was it warm and sunny?) in 1970 (or 71?), well anyway, a brand new New York newspaper landed on the newsstands — The Herald. What a surprise! Compared to The Daily NewsNew York PostThe New York Times and The Village Voice it was a breath of fresh newsprint.
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LORRAINE WILD

The Black Rule

The Black Rule is intimately connected to a typographic grid, and the paper it's printed on. It's the sign of the hand of a designer who shows no sign of his hand. It's not really necessary, but it's critical to the identity of the work and the person who imagined it. Here, a look at The Black Rule in the work of Massimo Vignelli.
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DEBBIE MILLMAN

Interview with Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli was one of the few designers I had not personally met prior to our interview, and as a result, I approached the date of our meeting with a certain amount of nervousness. It didn't help that this was also the only interview wherein I inadvertently stood my subject up.
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AIGA

Lella and Massimo Vignelli: The 1982 AIGA Medal

In 1982 Lella and Massimo received the AIGA Medal for their many contributions to the design world. Here is an article which originally appeared in the 1983 issue of AIGA Graphic Design USA, commemorating their accomplishments. It is republished here with kind permission from AIGA.
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THE EDITORS

Lella and Massimo Vignelli: A Celebration

The iconic work of international designers Lella and Massimo Vignelli is now a permanent archive at a new design center, the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, set to open September 16, 2010 at the Rochester Institute of Technology. This begins a week-long celebration on Design Observer of their significant contributions to design.
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JESSICA HELFAND

Fat Chance

My father recently told me that the scale in his doctor's office is permanently fixed at ten pounds below what is actually correct — the basic premise being that since everyone wants to lose ten pounds, a falsified result makes for, well, happy patients. And happy (albeit deluded) patients make for good business.

Fat chance. But in truth, body image remains, for many, a significant obsession. The Center for Disease Control recently reported that 64.5% of all American adults or 120 million people — are overweight or obese. 

I'm not the first to write about this tricky topic (not will I be the last) and offer the following disclaimer: this essay will reference what some readers may deem politically incorrect content. But for those of you who think this is non-design related, think again: what could be more visual than the way people look at themselves — and one another?

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JESSICA HELFAND

The Real Skinny on the Real Skinny

Nearly 70 million people worldwide — and one in five American women— suffer from an eating disorder, 90% of them between the ages of 12 and 25. At the forefront of this epidemic are fashion models, painfully and unrealistically slender, who are the inadvertent purveyors of high fashion and low self-image — and the unlikely heroines of no shortage of teenage anorexics.

I should know because I was one of them.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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POEM OF THE WEEK

"@"

@. "Like the whorl of an out-of-this-world ear..." A poem celebrating our most contemporary punctuation mark by Paul Muldoon.
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