Posts Tagged ‘Massimo Vignelli’


Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Ken Briggs, Left, 1950s

Ken Briggs, Left, 1950s


Recently, a young designer met with me and talked about obsession. “I’m worried it’s wrong, but I get obsessed about something and can’t stop,” she said. She wasn’t talking about Justin Bieber or heroin. She gave the example of string art. “I can’t stop looking for it online and want to learn how to do it.” Who doesn’t?” was my reply.

I don’t know where she heard that being obsessed was bad. Sure, if you’re stalking someone and build a shrine with sacrifices for them you may have a problem. But I’ve been working on my OCD family tree for years and never tire of it. Paula Scher makes wonderful paintings of maps. Marian Bantjes works with pattern. Massimo Vignelli couldn’t get enough Bodoni. Being obsessed is part of the job.

Ken Briggs was a British designer responsible for many of the beautiful posters for the National Theatre in London. Clearly, Briggs was obsessed with the New Typography, inspired after seeing a copy of Josef Müller Brockmann’s Neue Grafik. The posters relentlessly use Helvetica, golden section proportions and grids. But, Briggs took the rigid rules and tweaked them with surprising color choices and offbeat photographic solutions. He added a dry British wit to a sterile approach.

Briggs didn’t do this once, or for a couple of months. He did it over and over and over. And thank God for that obsession. The lesson here, obsession makes perfection.


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Magic Journeys

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Arthur de Wolf, Walt Disney World transit map


I’m a sucker for a nice map. A couple of years ago, I posted about Walt Disney World and Disneyland maps. As a nice by-product, we were then hired to design a new souvenir map for Disneyland. I can’t show this to anyone due to the contract, but believe me, it’s good. A kind follower of burningsettlerscabin recently sent me this remarkable map of Walt Disney World by Arthur de Wolf. Holy cheese and crackers, I am blown away. This is one of those times I find myself saying, “I wish I’d done that.” It’s reminiscent of Massimo’s 1972 New York Subway map. Fortunately it isn’t like the most confusing map I’ve ever used for the Tokyo Subway system. Try to figure that one out. Now I know why I see photos of passengers being shoved into trains in Tokyo. They obviously are all lost and endlessly changing trains to find the way home.


Massimo Vignelli, New York Subway map, 1972

Tokyo Subway map

Tokyo Subway pushers, Shinjuku Station

American Beauty

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Massimo Vignelli, American Airline identity, 1967

Several years ago, VH1 changed their logo. We designed the previous one. The mark we created wasn’t flashy or wildly exciting. It was a simple and clear identifier. We added the words Music First into the mark to remind the audience, internal and external, that VH1 was about music, not Gallagher specials. The solution worked, the network had clarity and focus. Ratings increased dramatically, not because the logo was good, but because the new programming was great. Like Paul Rand said, “A good logo can never make a bad product good. But it can make a good product spectacular.”

When the next iteration of the logo (after ours) was launched, several magazines asked for my opinion of the new one. At the time, I answered diplomatically, “I don’t know the business reasons or criteria for the change, so I can’t comment on the success or failure of the new version.” Well, that was dumb. Now a decade later, I look at the backwards 1/leaf version and can say, “WTF? Ugly.”

American Airlines just changed their identity. I appreciated Massimo’s honesty about the redesign, and I agree. Massimo’s mark is simple, clear, and timeless. It will be relevant another 50 years from now. Why does every corporation now think they need a logo that looks like a internet company in 1999? Most importantly, however, is the fact that the tens of millions of dollars spent on implementation could have been used to save and create jobs. Our role as designers is to help our clients succeed. This means they keep employees, hire people, expand, and provide higher wages. Something shiny and new will never be better than that.

Massimo Vignelli, American Airline ID, 1967

Massimo Vignelli, American Airlines logo, 1967

Futurebrand, American Airlines logo, 2013

Futurebrand, American Airlines logo, 2013


AdamsMorioka, VH1 logo, 1998

The post AdamsMorioka VH1 logo






Time Time

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

I recently answered a question for a How magazine article about focus. Oddly, Michael Vanderbyl had just told me the best story about two international clients who insisted that he must, “f#%k us!” It was very important the he, “f#%k us very hard!” Only later, after several awkward silences did he realize they meant “focus.”

Time, of course, is at the heart of the issue. Is there enough time before the deadline to focus on a solution? Can you carve out time during the day to not be interrupted? Does the email requesting another pdf need to be answered immediately? For me, it’s easy. I can’t think about more than one thing at a time, and am rather dull witted. So I have no choice. I must concentrate with no distractions to solve any problem. I also realize that work expands to fill the time you give it. And nobody has run screaming into the path of a bus because they didn’t receive an email response about a paper issue. Time to think and concentrate uninterrupted is not a luxury; it’s a requirement, regardless of the profession.

Which brings us to this incredible promotion about Time designed by Massimo Vignelli and Peter Laundy fort Champion Paper in 1983. I’ve carted this promotion around with me since I received it in college. It’s a little dinged up, but one of the possessions I don’t allow away from my desk. And it took several hours today to photograph it, stitch the pages together in Photoshop, and post it to this blog. But, it’s important, so it deserved the time.

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Massimo Vignelli, Peter Laundy, Champion Paper promo 1983

Mash-up o’ Crap

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Technicolor envelope, 1972

I have a big plastic bin labeled “Favorite Things”. This bin is filled with; you guessed it, our favorite things. Every few months I go through the bin and weed out the garbage. It seems that the Favorite Things bin can become a dumping ground for any item that has no home. If you came into the office and found the bin, you would probably say, “Whoa, what a bunch of crap.” I imagine Michael Bierut’s Favorite Things bin filled with beautiful items designed by Massimo Vignelli, Paula Scher, and Woody Pirtle. Bill Drenttel and Jessica Helfand’s box has rare books by Paul Klee, Alvin Lustig, and Paul Rand. Michael Vanderbyl must have a box filled with a magnificent collection of classic black and white photography.

Our bin, as you can imagine, is filled with Dixie Cups, a piece of wallpaper with a repeat pattern of antique cars, 1972 maps of Berlin from a European Bus company, and other worthless artifacts. Today, I will begin the slow reveal of the items. Today’s mash-up of crap is a 1964 travel pack of Kleenex Tissues, a Technicolor brand envelope, a lovely package of napkin/guest towels, and a Dinah’s Fried Chicken menu. Don’t say you can’t find the height of western culture here at the cabin.

package of guest napkins, 1968

travel pack of Kleenex Tissues, 1964

Dinah's Fried Chicken menu, Glendale