I chose Massimo Vignelli as a design icon, because he’s done so much amazing design work in corporate, as well as industrial design. I love his work – of course – for his consistent use of Helvetica, one of my all time favorite fonts, only rivaled in my mind by futura, but enough about that.
Mr. Vignelli used Helvetica when he redesigned the graphics of the New York transit system, where he constructed all key visual elements including the station signs and the now famous maps. Here’s the NYT Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual:
On the industrial design side, two pieces come to mind that I love above all others. The perpetual calendar is the first, a beautiful piece of minimalist design that’s super practical and beautiful at the same time. Then his early hanging, glass lamps. These are definitely not minimal, neither in spirit nor material; they are however incredibly beautiful. If you know anything about hand-made Venetian glass, then you know how much work goes into these. They are also wildly colorful in the otherwise more restrained palette of Mr. Vignelli.
Then there are of course the stuff that he’s mostly known for: the logos, to be exact. In particular the American Airlines and knoll logos. It’s amazing that after all these years, American Airlines still uses his work and it’s still as fresh as it was back in the day.
I want to end up with something that’s just as amazing, among the folks who have worked with Mr. Vignelli, there’s Michael Bierut a partner at Pentagram. He’s a great designer in his own right. He credits Mr. Vignelli with learning a ton while working there. How wonderful for a man to not only produce great work and inspiration, but to help form another generation of great designers.