Letters to Massimo Vignelli

Published:  May 12, 2014
Bonnie Abbott

Massimo Vignelli, one of the twentieth century’s great modernist designers, is very ill. His family has reported that he has left hospital and will be spending the last of his days in his home. Last week, his son Luca called upon any of those in the world, to whom Vignelli was an influence or inspiration, to write him a letter.

Vignelli moved to New York in 1966 to head up the NY branch of Unimark International, where some of his most well known work took place, like the iconic signage for the New York City Subway. He founded Vignelli Associates in 1971 with his wife Lella, where together, until very recently, they still worked.

New York City Subway Manual pages and examples of the sign system, c.1970.

Michael Bierut, of the design firm Pentagram, worked with Vignelli for 10 years. “Luca said that Massimo would be thrilled to get notes of good wishes from people whom he’s touched or influenced – whether personally or remotely – over the years,” Bierut explained. “Luca has visions of huge mail bags full of letters. I know that one of Massimo’s biggest fantasies has been to attend his own funeral. This will be the next best thing. Pass the word.”

You can send your notes, letters or cards to:

Massimo Vignelli
130 East 67 Street
New York, New York 10021

Vignelli was not only an influence and benchmark of modernist design, but also outspoken on strict design principles, publishing essays and books of his knowledge and philosophies. In 1983, he published ‘Call For Criticism‘, a groundswell essay encouraging designers to invest in a written graphic design history, to “arouse the awareness that every gesture of the present is a document for the future, and that our present will be measured only by these gestures”. 

A younger Vignelli.

Vignelli’s most recent publication, The Vignelli Canon, is still available as a free e-book. ”I thought that it might be useful to pass some of my professional knowledge around, with the hope of improving [young designers'] design skills,” writes Vignelli. “Creativity needs the support of knowledge to be able to perform at its best.”


2 Responses

  1. Harryhwdesign Williamson

    Dear Desktop, promise to do what’s required to subscribe, always interested in your articles. Will also send a letter to Massimo, an enduring influence for good, certainly for me. Regards, Harry

  2. Thank you Desktop for being interesting to read.
    Your melancholy news about Massimo has caused me to reflect upon the Vignelli’s contribution to design and life – summed up in the words “design is one”. Richard

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