Photo by Elizabeth Lamark
News of Massimo Vignelli's passing yesterday morning marked a somber start to this week as the design community mourns the loss of one of a modernist maestro. It is impossible to understate his influence on contemporary graphic design, and his legacy will live on not only in his extensive body of work but also in documentaries such as Helvetica and Design Is One—and, of course, the Vignellis' career archive, which Massimo and his wife/partner Lella generously donated to the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Josh Owen, Professor and Chair of Industrial Design, RIT, shares a few fond memories of Massimo.
I was attracted to join the faculty at RIT in large part due to the emergent Vignelli Center for Design Studies. I knew it would be a great opportunity to learn from Massimo Vignelli's exemplary design process and to utilize the process-based teaching tools that he generously donated to RIT. What I did not expect to find was the warm embrace of a charismatic visionary who became a mentor as well as a friend. I recently met with Massimo in his home and talked with him about life and philosophy. He talked about his notion of "Design is One," the idea that design can cross all categories of human endeavor in an attempt to make sense of the complexities of life.
Massimo also told me how happy he was that we are delivering this message through our work at RIT. While this is no easy task, it is one that I take on with most sincere intention, together with my esteemed colleagues.
From an e-mail dated 5/16/2012 from Massimo:
I am so happy to see the dream of the archive's purpose finally coming to fruition... This is the most important issue of my life: to leave something that can inspire some other designer to do even better, to expand the language.
Ciao Massimo—grazie mille.
–Josh Owen, May 27, 2014.