Massimo Vignelli 1931-2014
May 27, 2014 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I feel really bad that I didn't send him one of those cards he'd asked for. I totally meant to.
posted by sweetkid at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

An original copy of his New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual was recently unearthed.
posted by Rob Rockets at 12:41 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know this: if there's not already a clear map navigating people through the afterlife, then they're about to get a really great one.
posted by fremen at 12:55 PM on May 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

They'll also know what day it is.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:58 PM on May 27, 2014

Vignelli himself participates in the comments section of this Michael Bierut article, "Mr. Vignelli's Map."

From Helvetica, outtake footage of Vignelli explaining his 1972 New York subway map.
posted by needled at 1:00 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by infini at 1:03 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:03 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:29 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by mumimor at 1:30 PM on May 27, 2014

I love this quote from the Bierut link: "Massimo was the same as he always was: warm, emotional, generous."

posted by vitabellosi at 1:54 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by acb at 2:15 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by FlyingMonkey at 2:16 PM on May 27, 2014

Gizmodo shares a few of their favourite designs of his, including of course the famous NYC subway map diagram, but also signage for the NYC and Washington Metro systems, branding for Ford and American Airlines, and more.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 2:24 PM on May 27, 2014

Me too, sweetkid.

posted by a halcyon day at 2:39 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:47 PM on May 27, 2014

They'll also know what day it is.

. for Signor Vignelli but man, that calendar was NOT my friend. I don't care how stylish (and expensive) that calendar was, starting the week on a Monday just constantly messed me up.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:11 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

An American icon of success in graphic design.
posted by xtian at 3:15 PM on May 27, 2014

I once found a set of his mugs at Salvation Army. I was low on funds so I sold them. Had I not, I would toast him tonight in style.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:19 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by davros42 at 3:48 PM on May 27, 2014


Now I feel like a dick for not spending five minutes to write and mail a letter ... and fifteen minutes to look for a stamp.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:09 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had the good fortune to meet Massimo at an AIGA event in Chicago to celebrate the release of the Unimark book. I was in college for graphic design and damn near broke, but I scraped together the fee for the event and took the Metra into the city. It was bitterly cold and I showed up bundled in shabby winter gear to awkwardly schmooze with real industry professionals (including several Unimark folks) dressed to the nines. I felt a bit out of place. Massimo was there dressed in a black turtleneck and black slacks, sipping on a beer and chatting idly. I was terrified of talking to him. He was my greatest design hero, but I had no idea what to expect. I purchased a copy of the book and asked him to sign it. He greeted me warmly and obliged.

The organizers of the event took to the microphone. They made grand introductions, talked of Massimo's influence. Massimo sat at his table, chuckling and whispering to his neighbors, looking around and taking pictures with a little black Leica point-and-shoot. The event was ostensibly in his honor, but he was just a member of the audience enjoying the event. Finally, they invited him to the microphone. He came up, greeted the audience, and I swear to you, spoke for no longer than forty-five seconds before sitting back down. One of the organizers, visibly flustered, returned to the mic and asked if anyone else maybe had a story to share about Unimark.

The rest of the night proceeded not as a formal presentation, but a casual conversation, with people coming up, sharing stories, Massimo remembering things and returning to the microphone to share and then stepping down to encourage others to talk. We listened and talked and drank and laughed. When someone brought up the temperature outside, Massimo pulled up one of his pant legs to his knee to reveal his long underwear (black, of course). I'll never forget that image.

It's dangerous meeting your heroes. Too often they fall short of your expectations, leave you wondering how you ever looked up to them. Massimo Vignelli turned out to be so much more than just a great designer. He was a warm and funny man who cared about people and made the world a better place. I'm glad to have met him, and I hope he got my letter. I'll sincerely miss him.

posted by buriednexttoyou at 6:10 PM on May 27, 2014 [10 favorites]

posted by tychotesla at 6:21 PM on May 27, 2014

One of the giants.

posted by schmod at 6:39 PM on May 27, 2014

posted by drklahn at 6:57 PM on May 27, 2014

I'm so glad I sent that card.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:45 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mike Montiero asked everyone at An Event Apart to write him a postcard. I hope they arrived in time.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:12 PM on May 27, 2014

I think he'd appreciate the efficient simplicity of MetaFilter's memorial dot.

posted by Rock Steady at 4:52 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

aw, buriednextoyou, that actually brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing that!


posted by maggiemaggie at 5:31 AM on May 28, 2014

In the late 90's his design firm in NYC did the gui design for an app that I was writing. His studio was quite amazing and many details still stand out in my mind's eye. First were the absolutely massive double doors, they must have been 12 or 15 feet tall, and made of lead. Perfectly balanced, they swung easily once you got them moving. There was a mannequin sitting idly on a large bench sporting his signature take on the nehru shirt, halfway sewn.

When wrapping up one working session there his lead designer turned back to tuck a book away on a shelf, leaving the desk empty. "We have to keep the surfaces bare," he explained.
posted by Walleye at 5:35 AM on May 28, 2014

The "Dear Massimo" letter-writing campaign deeply touched Vignelli, who received several crates of them at home in his last days: "To see what people are saying, I cannot repeat it even, because I feel blushing. {...} Let's say if I died soon, I would die very happy. No regrets."

Although I'm too much of a stubborn cartographic literalist to venerate his NYC subway map uncritically, his flat-out superb typographic design for the MTA is one of the features that make it the best public transportation service in the world. His style bible for it might as well be the Bible for underground signage as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:16 AM on May 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

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