Typographer of the week: Massimo Vignell


“From the spoon to the city” this is the quote that resonated with me as I was watching the interview with Massimo Vignell. Architect cum designer, Form precedes every one of his designs as he strives to instill meaning and purpose into his designs. Many of us tend to get lost in the aesthetics, aiming to please visually but more often than not, it lacks substance and functionality. The ideal of form follows function is a strong mantra to abide by as it could be argued that your design would always be relevant as functionality does not change but aesthetic trends can.

As what Massimo Vignelli said, “the most effective design is positioned in the centre between progressiveness and conservatism.” Timeless designs are a perfect harmony of function and aesthetics which is what makes them, to me – the epitome of what a designer can achieve. A good example would be an instruction booklet filled with pure text. It is completely functional, however, the lackluster of aesthetics just makes it unbearable to consume. Something purely aesthetic could be a Jackson pollock painting, whereby it is pleasing to look at, but does not serve any functions, and sooner or later, another trend of painting comes along. I start to study Massimo’s work on the New York subway and despite it being designed in the 1950s, the design is still highly relevant today and it does not lose one bit of function.

Commercial design is becoming increasingly diluted and this is a reflection of the extremely wasteful and consumeristic characteristics of our current society. Design trends follow suit as well and it is constantly changing to suit the demands and the needs of the market. While it makes the design landscape more exciting, there is a deeper underlying issue with having zero historical value as they are so fleeting, these trends are not impressionable. However, if we turn back the clock, we realize that the approach  towards design during the period of modernism such as bauhaus is still extremely relevant and widely used today.

Overall, I am humbled by how Massimo Vignelli views himself as he does not come across as a celebrity designer, but instead, he is more of a passionate teacher. One that is concerned for the direction in which design is heading towards. Towards the end of the interview, Massimo Vignelli shared one of his experiences with fans approaching him for an autograph and his genuine attitude towards his fans is heartwarming as he said it would’ve been something he would do in his past.

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