OBSERVATORY : STEVEN HELLER
When I was a kid the other kids in school used to joke that I was going straight to Hell because my name was Heller. If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times…a day. And I'd be lying — and probably would go straight to Hell — if I didn't say the joke got tired very quickly. Then came Hellerware designed by the Vignellis.
OBSERVATORY : THE EDITORS
We are pleased to announce that Season Six of Design Matters with Debbie Millman will premiere on Observer Media this Friday at 3pm with a legendary guest, none other than Massimo Vignelli — during our week-long celebration of Lella and Massimo Vignelli.
PLACES : KIM FöRSTER
In 1967 Peter Eisenman founded the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, which for almost two decades functioned as a forum for public and scholarly debate. In the early '70s Massimo Vignelli began a productive association with the Institute, designing its graphic identity, from periodicals to posters to stationery. As part of the Design Observer Group's week-long celebration of Massimo and Lella Vignelli's work, we are pleased to present a gallery of Institute graphic design, written and curated by Kim Förster, who is researching the history of the IAUS.
OBSERVATORY : MICHAEL BIERUT
was a remarkable publication that is little known today. Designed by Massimo Vignelli as the house organ of pioneering design consultancy Unimark, Dot Zero
was published only five times between 1966 and 1968. Its mission was described in its inaugural issue: "It will deal with the theory and practice of visual communication from varied points of reference, breaking down constantly what used to be thought of as barriers and are now seen to be points of contact." The list of contributors was astonishing for its time, and the topics it covered (new technologies, transportation graphics, semiotics) were not addressed in the mainstream design press then, and indeed in come cases would not be discussed elsewhere in such depth for decades. What does Massimo Vignelli say today about this attempt to revolutionize design publishing?
OBSERVATORY : ALICE TWEMLOW
A glimpse of someone's workspace inevitably brings out the amateur analyst in us, or at least the voyeur. We snoop around other peoples' desks because we think we will learn something — and hopefully something profound — about the kind of person who works there.
CHANGE OBSERVER : DANA THOMAS
Since handing over daily design duties at his Tokyo fashion house in 1997, Miyake has spent his time exploring new ways to make clothes more efficient, ecological and accessible while remaining stylish and modern. On September 7, he unveiled his lab's latest project.
OBSERVATORY : ANNOTATED BY JULIE LASKY
Philip B. Meggs
: Pardon me, Emigre
has won some important design awards. Why is it garbage?Massimo Vignelli
: Maybe you should be one of the design judges.
OBSERVATORY : STEVEN HELLER
I remember like it was yesterday. It was a cold, damp day (or was it warm and sunny?) in 1970 (or 71?), well anyway, a brand new New York newspaper landed on the newsstands — The Herald
. What a surprise! Compared to The Daily News
, New York Post
, The New York Times
and The Village Voice
it was a breath of fresh newsprint.
CHANGE OBSERVER : MIMI ZEIGER
A philosophy of nonviolent action for social justice gives the organization a political edginess not always palatable to locavores who are more inclined to fight for the perfect heirloom tomato than against corporate food conglomerates.
OBSERVER MEDIA : JOHN MADERE
This film was directed and filmed by John Madere and edited by Aaron Wolfe in 2010. It is the first of a series featuring some of the preeminent figures in graphic design today. The films will be an extension of a still-portrait series of designers that Madere has been photographing since 2008.
OBSERVATORY : LORRAINE WILD
The Black Rule is intimately connected to a typographic grid, and the paper it's printed on. It's the sign of the hand of a designer who shows no sign of his hand. It's not really necessary, but it's critical to the identity of the work and the person who imagined it. Here, a look at The Black Rule in the work of Massimo Vignelli.
PLACES : KEITH EGGENER
"America is littered with really large things — colossal chairs and chainsaws, gargantuan gas pumps and guitars, super-sized shoes and six packs, tremendous teapots and totem poles, all variety of enormous animals, insects, fruits and vegetables," writes architectural historian Keith Eggener. And, he notes, "Like claimants to the title of world's tallest building, enormous roadside attractions beg the question 'why?'" Eggener tackles the question, ranging from semiotics to economics to design history, and he finds strange objects born of local pride or personal whimsy or sheer tenacity.
OBSERVATORY : MICHAEL BIERUT
Thirty years ago this summer, I graduated from design school
in Ohio and moved to New York to take a job at Vignelli Associates. Even then, Massimo Vignelli was a legend. Other designers who heard where I would be working always seemed to have a story about him. Only a few of these were true, but most of were outrageous. I knew next to nothing about Lella Vignelli, Massimo's wife and partner, alongside whom he had been working for his whole career. I remember running into a former Vignelli Associates intern. "Oh, wait till you meet Lella," he said, mysteriously.
Over the next ten years, I learned an enormous amount from Massimo about how to be a good
designer. But I learned how to be a successful
designer from Lella.
OBSERVATORY : DEBBIE MILLMAN
Massimo Vignelli was one of the few designers I had not personally met prior to our interview, and as a result, I approached the date of our meeting with a certain amount of nervousness. It didn't help that this was also the only interview wherein I inadvertently stood my subject up.
OBSERVATORY : AIGA
In 1982 Lella and Massimo received the AIGA Medal for their many contributions to the design world. Here is an article which originally appeared in the 1983 issue of AIGA Graphic Design USA
, commemorating their accomplishments. It is republished here with kind permission from AIGA.
CHANGE OBSERVER : ROBERT FABRICANT
Robert Fabricant discusses the sea change in the way designers engage with the world. Instead of aspiring to influence user behavior from a distance, designers increasingly want the products they design to have more immediate impact through direct social engagement.
CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE
While environmentalists debate the ethics and effectiveness of carbon offsets, designers work to make them appealing.
PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2008
is a bold proposal by a team of Chicago urban designers for how cities can ensure the availability of an increasingly scarce resource.