i-ItalyNY - 5thBirthday Special Issue. The Best of i-Itay - page 32

32 |
i-Italy Magazine
| Special Issue | Winter 2017-2018
Letizia Airos
The first time I interviewed
him, I entered his home gin-
gerly, almost afraid, having imag-
ined the house would be a temple of
design. Turns out, it was a temple.
The light poured through a huge
window and extended into an elon-
gated living room.
I will never forget it. The silence
was profound but it was as if music
had just been playing in the back-
ground, maybe Mozart… At the end
of the room, on the left, was a big
black desk. There was a metal sheet,
the kind used to cover roadwork
in New York… only he could have
thought of using it to draw on. Seat-
ed around his desk, we taped our
first interview. It was there – though
I didn’t know it yet – that we would
have other long, timeless chats…
That day I began by asking why
he’d left Milan.
“It was too small,” he replied
quickly and without hesitating, as
if he had thought about it so many
times, “too provincial. The ceiling
was too low. I came to New York
thinking that the ceiling would be
higher here, only to discover that
here the ceiling doesn’t exist at all!”
His answer marked the begin-
ning of our friendship. Now I know.
In a few incisive words Massimo
helped me understand my own de-
cision to live in New York.
It was a short (regrettably) but
intense relationship. I spent a lot
of time with him as his friend – an
honor for me – and as a journalist.
That’s how I had the good fortune
to realize some of the conversations
that appeared periodically, frag-
ments of which here follow.
Design vs. Vulgarity
“Good design is responsible design.
It expresses intellectual elegance
rather than the contrary, vulgarity,”
Massimo Vignelli used to say, with-
out a trace of aloofness or snobbery.
He was punctilious, yes, but
never boring. He believed in dis-
cipline but not in dogma; he was
disciplined and dynamic, flexible
and coherent, even if he spoke his
own language.
He championed the cleanest,
simplest approach to design.
I vividly remember talking to
him about a change he made to
his own house. I find analyzing the
personal choices of a designer is
the best way to fully investigate his
Books covered his living room
table. Lots of books. I was stunned
to discover that Vignelli had fig-
Massimo Vignelli: ‘Design Is One’
This is the first of a series of
conversations withMassimo
Vignelli, which came to an
abrupt end with his passing
inMay 2014. A friend, and a
great designer, Massimo
worked in a wide range of
fields, including interior
design, environmental
design, package design,
graphic design, furniture
design, and product design.
He left behind traces of
Italy in NewYork and
throughout the world.
Italian Design IN America. THE ICON (FALL 2013)
on i-ItalyTV
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