Famed designer Massimo Vignelli, who was a legend and mentor to many designers, died today at age 83. He had been ill for weeks. The design community, made aware of his illness, had been sending letters and messages to him in recent days.
He is well known for his spare, elegant, and timeless graphic design, typography, books, magazines, as well as interiors, furniture, and products. Massimo trained in architecture in Milan and Venice. In 1960, he and his wife Lella established the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan. In New York in the early 1970s, he started Vignelli Associates for two-dimensional design, and Vignelli Designs for furniture, objects, exhibitions, and interiors.
The Vignellis left their mark on design with well-known aspects of our daily life: the signage for both the New York City and Washington, D.C. subway systems. His 1972 New York subway map is iconic. He had also designed the interior of St. Peter’s Church at Citicorp Center, and identities for corporations including American Airlines, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Knoll.
Michael Bierut, a partner in Pentagram, has written this essay in memory of Vignelli, who was a mentor to him. Bierut began his career by working for Vignelli Associates for 10 years.
Together, Massimo and Lella received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. Massimo is survived by his wife Lella.