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Date created
Thu, May 29, 2014
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Image Lella-and-Massimo-Vignelli


Design Standard. Italian-American designer Massimo Vignelli died at his home on 67th Street in New York on May 27th. Massimo and his wife Lella were the first designers I worked for when I arrived in New York in 1982. As it turns out Massimo wasn’t just my first boss, he was my single true mentor: my benchmark, my reference as my life and career unfolded. This influence reaches far beyond the boundaries of my architectural practice, into my diverse activities in the world of contemporary art. In creating awareness of form and materiality and, more importantly, creating awareness of empty space, he occupies this mentor role singlehandedly in my life. In the years since I left Vignelli Associates, Massimo and I met at frequent intervals and the routine was always the same. He would inquire what I was working on, utter sounds of approval, or not, and then nod and, like a missionary, say: “Keep up the good work.” Like his wife, Massimo was trained as an architect in Italy, but made his mark as a graphic designer after Lella and he established themselves in America in 1966, developing corporate identity programs for American Airlines, Barneys, Bloomingdales, Cinzano, Knoll, Lancia, and Ford Motors amongst many others. Together with Lella and Dave Law, he also designed glassware for Venini, Steuben and Sasaki; showrooms for Artemide, Hauserman and Poltrona Frau; and furniture for Rosenthal, Morphos and Knoll. He even designed a series of architectural prototypes for the US postal service. Massimo was relentless in his training, paring down my visual experience of space, teaching me to focus on the few essential elements needed to reveal it, and showing me with ruthless vigor how to eradicate anything superfluous to that experience. He has had such a deep impact on my design sensibility and on my daily approach to my surroundings that I can honestly state that no creative decision since has been made without his influence. His contagious giggle and joy when his efforts were rewarded was matched by his fierceness when his standards were not met best essay writing company uk. Massimo had an ability to experiment, and a freedom to play with and rewrite the boundaries of every aspect of design. It was such a joy to watch and be part of this process, to see the accuracy and single-mindedness with which he steered every project, that I cannot thank the gods enough for having led me to his door. The gods came in the form of his daughter, Valentina, who introduced me to her family, and so facilitated my collaboration with her parents. So, in addition to thanking Massimo and Lella, I want to thank Valentina, not only for being the beautiful person she is, but also for the impact her introduction to her parents has had on me. I saw Massimo a few days before he died. Frail as he was, when we said goodbye, he looked sternly into my eyes for a second and must have said softly, one last time: “Keep up the Good Work.” I’ll try Massimo.