Typography: Typographer of the Week – Massimo Vignelli

This has by far been one of my favourite reads on a figure as I felt that that although on a different topic, I could relate personally to some of Vignelli’s beliefs, which helped me understand him better in context.

The most significant aspect of Vignelli, to me, is definitely his belief in the power of knowledge behind what one produces. Here are some extracts that really stood out to me:

“It is not a matter of style or taste. It is a matter of quality and non-quality.”

“The difference is knowledge. Knowledge shows.”

“How do you define “quality?”: Things that are done with knowledge.”

“There is no absolute reality. Only one’s interpretation of that reality. Therefore, my solution is my interpretation of the problem filtered through my culture, my education, my understanding, my sensibility.”

What I’ve gathered from Vignelli’s words is that designers today have become so focused on pure “aesthetics” that many have forgotten about the power of knowledge in their works. He also strongly believes in communicating himself through his works, as he said himself, “I’m not interested in change for the sake of change or novelty. I’m only interested in a projection of intelligence that comes through refinement.”

This reading resonated with me on a personal level, as his words spoke to me in relation to my passion for dance. Yes, I dance. Specifically, I’m into “street” dance (simply: freestyle, you dance with your friends at parties – not like Singapore’s EDM clubs, and you also go for dance battles), and not those choreography style classes that you see a lot of videos of on YouTube nowadays.

Since entering the world of street dance, I’ve always been reminded not to butcher what “dance” is – you could be making nice “moves” and receiving oohs and aahs from everyone around in a studio, but what is dance if you don’t do it with the knowledge and soul of where it came from? Simply putting it, “dance” today has become so commercially understood by society thanks to the never-ending cinematically shot videos of studio classes, where good dancing = making nice-looking moves and hitting beats. The pure authenticity of what dance really means, where it came from, its strong culture, has been lost, and that is what many pioneers of the art shake their heads for today, just like how Vignelli does at many of today’s designs that he believes hold no knowledge. I repeat his words, “It is not a matter of style or taste. It is a matter of quality and non-quality.”

Here’s one of the pioneers of a dance style called Popping, whom Vignelli reminded me a lot of during my read, although this guy’s definitely a lot more… harsh. Also don’t get me wrong, I’m not even super crazy about this guy, and neither do I do popping, but he is a respectable figure in dance’s history.


I’ve probably done a really poor job of explaining how Vignelli’s words has resonated with me, and you might not even understand what I was trying to say about the dance thing (because I myself took at least 2 years trying to understand it), but I hope at least something (I don’t know what, but at least something) came across… haha.


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