Massimo Vignelli — Biography of the Famous Graphic Designer

Who was Massimo Vignelli?

Massimo Vignelli was an important and famous Italian graphic and industrial designer of the 20th century.

He worked in several important works of design, furniture design, design of showrooms and layout of warehouses.

He created his own firm, Vignelli Associates, along with his wife.

He based his work on modernism and simplicity, which is manifested through his taste for the use of geometric design.

Vignelli was given awards and honorary doctorates.

He was born on January 10, 1931, in Milan.

He attended a school in Brera, before obtaining his architecture degree at the University of Milan.

During the years 1953 and 1957, he also attended the School of Architecture at the University of Venice.

At the beginning of his professional career, his area of ​​specialisation will be graphic design for the creation of products and corporate identities.

At the end of the decade of 1950, it obtained a scholarship to study in the United States, concretely in Towle Silversmiths, Massachusetts and the Institute of design of Chicago.

In 1957 he married Lella Vignelli, whom he met when he taught architecture classes.

A few years later, and together, they established their own architecture studio, which specialised in designing household products, office accessories and logos.

In 1965 the couple moved to Chicago, where they founded Unimar International, which focused explicitly on graphic design for large companies.

The innovative ideas of the Vignellis went viral in the United States.

They created balanced, attractive and functional designs.

Moreover, by then, they had the computer equipment to perform these tasks.

In 1966, Vignelli expanded his business and launched another second Unimark headquarters in New York.

Soon it would become the largest company in the world within the sector for its expansion.

The firm manages to create corporate identities of the most famous companies of the moment.

Vignelli designed the signage of the New York system.

Subsequently, Vignelli and Lella founded another firm, Vignelli Associates.

Once again, his company managed to attract again the most renowned companies in the whole country, from the level of IBM, Knoll, etc.

In addition to carrying the direction of art in all its businesses, Vignelli also wrote a book entitled: Vignelli, from A to Z.

In 2009 he also wrote a digital book, which he marketed for free.

Massimo Vignelli, the man who made the map of the New York subway

The famous designer Massimo Vignelli, known for his greatest creation, the subway map of the city of New York, and the American Airlines logo, among many other designs, died on May 27, 2014, at his home in Manhattan, aged 83.

According to family sources, he died of a severe illness, after fighting for a long time.

Vignelli was a co-founder of the design company Unimark International in 1964, which specialised in corporate identities until its closure.

In those times, he worked with large companies such as Ford, IBM, etc., among many other international companies.

It was not until 2013 that the company American Airlines decided to change the design that Vignelli had created, in a change surrounded by much controversy.

It should be noted, as a curious fact, that, if his logo design had an eagle, the designer repeatedly explained that it had not been his idea to place said eagle there.

Several years after working with American Airlines, Vignelli went on to design one of the most iconic, important and controversial maps ever devised: the design of the New York subway tracks, his most celebrated work to date.

However, the map was not a map, but representations designed to make the routes and stops much easier to understand.

Together with his wife, Lella, Vignelli founded Vignelli Designs.

While they continued working on corporate identities, their company covered all areas: from interior design to boxes and furniture, as well as fonts.

Vignelli continued working until 2009 when he released a free e-book describing his life and business experiences.

“Design is a field that encompasses the entire outside world that surrounds us,” Vignelli said in an interview by the New York Times. “Politicians are in charge of taking care of the nation and defending it, or at least it is supposed to be. The designers interact and design the whole environment that surrounds us. From this chair to that furniture there, everything you contemplate has been designed by someone.”

No doubt a prodigious mind that marked history in graphic design thanks to his creations, which today continue to have massive influence within our society.

Many of its fonts, such as Helvetica, are still used today, and no indications that indicate that will change.

A mind that was ahead of the future.

Remembering Massimo Vignelli and some of his works

Few designers can claim that their work has directly affected more than one million people daily.

Massimo Vignelli can be considered one of the few who have had such an influence.

His design for the metro signage of New York City has become an iconic part of the visual elements of the city, which keeps the memory of its creator, now deceased.

We want to take this issue to review the work of the life of one of the most celebrated graphic designers in the world, and that continues to inspire thousands of people around the world.

The Stendig calendar

Vignelli, who was a true modernist, believed in simplicity for his designs, and in the grid as the fundamental basis of graphic design.

There is no design of yours where this is not clear, and the Stendig Calendar is an excellent example of that. Designed in 1966.

American Airlines logo

In 1967, Vignelli’s design firm gained worldwide recognition when he designed the logo of the prestigious American Airlines.

The famous designer created a surprising logo with very few pieces, but that captivated the nation.

Also, to give it a more patriotic touch, Vignelli added the geometric X-shaped eagle at the top of the logo.


It is said to be Vignelli’s favourite personal design, the logo of the Knoll brand.

The company hired the famous designer to create all his graphic identity, from the simplest logos to advertising brochures and advertisements.

New York subway

In 1972, Vignelli designed a map of the New York subway, along with its signalling system, for the complex system that involves a metro network for a city of this draft.

A colourful design based on right angles, which directly influenced the city.

In 1979, the city decided to replace it with a newer one geographically.

However, within the design community, Vignelli’s design has always been considered the best.

Our Bodoni typography design

Vignelli did not consider during his life to using many types of lettering and fonts.

Even so, in 1989 he created Our Bodoni, a variation of Bodoni, which coincides with the dimensions of his favourite typography: Helvetica.

The most used fonts in the world

The typefaces have been a vital part of reading society.

They have been for centuries, and now they have evolved into the digital age.

The fonts greatly affect how the text you are reading or writing looks and feels, so it is important to choose a font carefully.

Below we have compiled a list of the most popular fonts since they were invented.


Helvetica is probably the most famous typeface on the planet.

Designed by the Italian designer Massimo Vignelli, this classic typeface has been used everywhere from its birth in the 1950s to the present day.

Its tremendous popularity can be attributed to the fact that it is still for modern, versatile and reliable typography.


Unimpressed by contemporary typefaces, John Baskerville began cutting his own typefaces to improve his printed works.

Admired by many, it is one of the most used fonts.

It was published in 1757 officially in Birmingham.


William Lints-Smith, manager of a London newspaper called ‘The Times’, learned that respected typographer Stanley Morrison was not impressed by the print quality of his newspaper.

After these arguments, the journalist hired Morrison to redesign his role, and in 1931, the designer gave the newspaper his new typeface.

Times New Roman. Since then, it is one of the most used types of letters.


Giambattista Bodoni designed this type of serif at the end of the 18th century in the palace of Duke Ferdinand de Bourbon, who praised Bodoni’s office to a large extent and permitted him to build a private printing press in his palace.

Bodoni was already a very popular source when Morris Fuller Benton revived it in the 1920s for ATF.

As a curiosity, the film Goodfellas used this source for his publicity posters.

Author Bio: Susan Wall is a modern writer about creativity. Also, she teaches about business and communication. She writes all things about web design and professional growth at her blog at Mc Essay.

Originally published at

Inkbot Design a Creative Graphic Design Agency in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Experts in Logo Design and Branding.

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