Not written by me, written by you as part of the Summer Of Design Books series. You can write and post a review too, go here and follow the simple instructions.
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For holiday reading this year I took away Vignelli: From A to Z. To be honest, I didn't know much about Massimo Vignelli before reading this: there was the Subway Map of course, Helvetica and the Michael Bierut connection. Now, I feel I know lots and while I can't say I totally agree with everything the great man has to say in his book, I really feel I've learned useful stuff and been reminded of many vital aspect of being a designer; things I perhaps already knew but lacked the elegance and insight of Vignelli to be able to express as clearly.
The book is a collection of short essays, cunningly ordered to follow the 21 letters of the Italian alphabet and there's something of value to be gleamed from almost every one of them.
So what I've done is attempt to extract just that, something of value, from each essay. Not necessarily the only useful or interesting thing and possibly not even the most important you may feel if you read it yourself; certainly, great benefit would be gained from taking the plunge rather than relying on my sorry attempt to summarize.
But here goes anyway, helpful or unhelpful: extracts, thoughts, observations or misunderstandings taken from Vignell: From A to Z...
Fun to play with, it can enrich work and instill "a sense of timelessness"...but handle it with care.
"The task of the designer is to transform an ordinary object into an extraordinary experience."
Vignelli's term used to represent "identification by the consistent use of colour connected to all graphic aspects of a company's communication media". Also: Phonotype for sound (think Intel Inside) and Morphotype for a form identifier (as in the shell for...well, you know what).
"...what makes us responsible towards ourselves...our clients...the society in which we live."
"The best education is generated by an insatiable passion to learn more..."
Here he mentions his theory of "Identity and Diversity" in which a limited number of elements can be arranged and rearranged while a clear and recognisable identity is retained.
Applying a modernist/reductionist approach Vignelli designed a range of cloths to suit his own needs. Some still look cool,elegant and timeless; others look like they're costumes for a 70s sci-fi film. In the context in which I read the book, our rainy holiday in Donegal, this bit highlighted just what a superb but underrated garment the pack-a-mac is; a great and unfashionable example of form and function.
I didn't know that Vignelli was, literally, the man responsible for Helvetica reaching the US.
"...artefacts generated without knowledge [of history] ultimately express their ignorance, shallowness and fundamental uselessness."
"The real challenge is to design a space in a way that will create an impact and remain forever ingrained in the mind..."
"To control light is to darkness, as well as articulate and manipulate emotions, objects, spaces, feelings, life."
"Magazine design means organising information in the clearest way possible; to achieveimpact, memorability; to involve the reader...to establish a relationship...a bond."
To design a newspaper means to organise in such a way that it will facilitate the make-up of each issue, its production...and then (see Magazine).
"To design objects is to play with light."
"If protection is the primary function of packaging, deception has been more often the motivation...packaging can sell once, but only a good product will ensure continuous sales."
Q) Quality or Quantity:
"The moral imperative should be to reduce the ugliness around us...and replace it with decent, unselfish design."
"Responsibility is not only an ethical attitude but an approach that stands for quality and is economically sound as well."
In graphic design, "...without [structure] the content is loose and in that randomness, the message is lost."
Style = Intellectual elegance
Structure comes first. Typeface comes second.
"University training will provide...the proper cultural level to give depth to [a designers] work...to make...the responsible designers that society needs."
V) Vignelli Associates:
In this last bit Vignelli gives a brief overview of his studio and takes the opportunity to commend and thank his most notable empoyees.