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?
Mr. Vignelli's Map
Like many complex urban transportation systems, the New York subways were aggregated over many years, as a variety of competing businesses (the Interborough Rapid Transit, the Independent Subway System, the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit) were consolidated into a single integrated network. The result was a tangled spaghetti of train lines, a mess of a "system" that was almost comical in its complexity.
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.
James Victore: Straight Up
There are two kinds of graphic designers in the world. One kind sees each project as an opportunity for self-expression, producing a body of work that bears an unmistakable mark, that is more alike than different, that is more about the maker than the message. The other kind of designer attends first to the client, to the message and to the audience. This graphic designer’s role is to be neutral and invisible, an efficient conduit between broadcaster and receiver.
James Victore is good because, amazingly, he combines the very best of both ways.