A true modernist, Vignelli is widely credited for bringing European Modernism to the United States. He was an advocate of functionality in design, favouring a minimalist aesthetic and basing his creations on real user needs.
Throughout his career, Vignelli refused to adhere to any one design discipline. His work spanned different fields from branding to package design, furniture design, public signage and more. Vignelli partnered with some of the world’s biggest brands from American Airlines, to IBM, Bloomingdales, Ford and Knoll; though he is perhaps most famous for his 1971 re-design of the New York Subway’s sign system, still used by millions every day.
A year after he designed the distinctive Knoll wordmark, Vignelli created this for the brand. Combining a simple rigorous grid with colourful overprints, it remains one of the most iconic posters in the history of graphic design.
Vignelli was given the task of designing a new map and signage system for the world’s busiest metro. A project that marked the advent of information design, it is perhaps Vignelli’s most famous piece of work. Adopting a geometric approach to map design, he laid out the subway’s stops in a new, more navigable way, an introduced a colour-coded, Helvetica-based signage system that endures to this today.
This packaging, for a range of stackable dinnerware designed by Vignelli himself, is alongside the Stendig, another example of the simple, elegant use of Helvetica among the designer’s work.
Vignelli’s outstanding poster work continued through his career. Both these pieces of work were produced in 1963, and show the range his simple, considered approach could exhibit: from the joy of a young woman free-wheeling on her new Pirelli, to the peaceful ecology of a poster for the City of Milan’s urban ecology conference.
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