“Design Is One: The Vignellis”
Innovation in Design
Massimo and Lella Vignelli are two of today’s world’s most influential designers. They have made many important contributions to the fields of industrial, graphic, and production design that have resulted in iconic achievements in the development of corporate identity programs, home furnishing and interior design, architectural graphics, and publishing. Throughout their career, their ambitious motto has been, “If you can’t find it, design it.”
In 1965 Massimo brought the Helvetica typeface to the United States. Igniting an interest in the Vignelli’s work, this design development led to a series of notable projects: New York’s subway signage and maps; the interior of Saint Peter’s Church at Citicorp Center; Venini lamps; Heller dinnerware; furniture for Poltrona Frau; and branding initiatives for Knoll International, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ford, and American Airlines.
Throughout their long career, their motto has been, ‘If you can’t find it, design it’. Their work covers a broad spectrum and they are known by everybody, even those who don’t know their names. From graphics to interiors to products and corporate identities, this film brings us into the work and everyday moments of the Vignellis’ world and we immediately see their humanity, warmth, and humor.
Directors Roberto Guerra show us their private and their public lives in this amazing documentary. seems.) We see interviews with “design tyros” such as Richard Heller and Milton Glaser who confirm that the Vignellis have restricted themselves to a rather narrow vocabulary of typography and color, getting variety out of materials instead.
The film is, in effect, an appreciation of their work. Associates, employees and colleagues praise Massimo and Lella for their genius, their style and their zestful humor and the designers themselves, slim and tastefully attired septuagenarians, talk about the ideas behind their designs.
The Massimos are icons of good taste. Lella, a designer of considerable flair, is the practical half of the partnership, reining in Massimo’s dreamier impulses. He has an intuitive talent for graphic design, based on a fundamental “grid” concept that has been widely imitated but never matched. He also introduced the Helvetica typeface to the U.S. Lella, was trained as an architect in Milan and designs beautifully minimalist interiors, objets d’art and the most ingenious silver jewelry imaginable. The couple has been married for 51 years and working together just as long. “Collaboration is a trust in the other person,” Lella says. “We are absolutely complementary.”
Massimo and Lella have now donated their vast design archives to the Rochester Institute of Technology outside in New York where it is housed in a building that they designed themselves, to insure that their designs, and principles will influence future generations.