Vignellis Defined the Landscape of Contemporary Design

You name it and they’ve designed it.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli, born in Italy and based in New York City, are master graphic artists, having been instrumental in defining the landscape of contemporary design.

Their motto is: If you can’t find it, design it. And so they have done to international acclaim.

The Vignellis, a married couple who’ve been working together for the past 51 years, are eclectic, their projects running the gamut from industrial and product design to corporate identity design.

Their clients include Ford, American Airlines, Saks Fifth Avenue and the New York City subway system.

Massimo and Lella are the subjects of a biopic, Design Is One, an informative documentary directed by Kathy Brew and Robert Guerra scheduled to open in Toronto on Friday, Oct. 11 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli
Massimo and Lella Vignelli

The film, which explores their careers through interviews, claims they brought the freshness, boldness, elegance and timelessness of Italian design to the United States. They arrived in America in 1957, and within a short period, they had amassed a roster of prestigious clients, who ensured their success.

Speaking of Msssimo, Peter Eisenman, the renowned architect, says, “He could make things jump off the page.”

Apostles of modernism who care deeply about the environment, they have designed a dizzying array of products, from furniture, jewellery and flatware to watches, kitchenware and Judaica. They also introduced the now classic Helvetica typeface to the United States.

The Vignellis love what they’re doing and rarely take vacations. “There is a fire in their belly all the time,” says an admirer, referring to their grinding work ethic.

Like an old married couple, they bicker, but as Massimo observes, “We are absolutely complementary to each other.”

As the film suggests, the Vignellis work together as one of the great and inspiring pairings in modern design.