i-ItalyNY - 5thBirthday Special Issue. The Best of i-Itay - page 34

34 |
i-Italy Magazine
| Special Issue | Winter 2017-2018
seum to its catalogues to the exhibi-
tions. Or for a company. You begin
with the logo to get to the product,
the letterhead, the packaging, the
store, the displays.”
In Vignelli’s opinion, a system of
visual identity allows something to
differentiate itself and become un-
mistakably recognizable.
Not many clients caught on
when Vignelli first explained this
notion to them. Today it has be-
come common wisdom.
Designers, Not Artists
I once asked him what the differ-
ence was between an artist and a
“[Artists] are the opposite of
designers. Design is always bound
by its relationship to others. Self-
expression is the job of artists. The
artist answers to no one. The de-
signer always answers to someone.
A client, the public. If you want to
make a fork, you have to make a
fork someone can eat with, not one
that makes it impossible to eat. You
can’t make a knife that’s just a blade
or just a handle, because striking
the right balance of blade and han-
dle is essential to using it. The first
part involves the object itself, the
next involves who is making the ob-
ject. That doesn’t mean that there’s
no room for invention, of course,
but there are restrictions.”
Traces in New York
New York speaks Massimo Vignel-
li’s language. Many will remember
the famous subway map he de-
signed for the MTA in the 1970s,
whose rigorous features could not
be superimposed on a map of the
city because its stops didn’t corre-
spond. (It was replaced by a more
realistic if less elegant drawing
years later.)
But there are plenty of other
places in New York – not to men-
tion museums – that speak Vi-
gnelli’s language, including spaces,
objects, posters, furniture.
One important trace can be
found in Soho’s Italian design dis-
trict. Poltrona Frau’s showroom
produced many works, including
the very famous and still modern
“Intervista” chair, commissioned
in the late ‘80s by TG2, then a
budding news show on Italian TV,
whose first set Vignelli designed. As
he himself tells it:
“It became the famous Studio
10: pearl-grey with a zinc floor, 32
monitors and two red armchairs
in the foreground. This was a new
invention, a new way to broadcast
the news (and a departure from the
anchorman format). The armchair
was called “Intervista”; an evolu-
tion of the bucket-style chair, it was
carefully designed for maximum
comfort and a posture that does
not alter the tone of voice.
It is an example of how a project
can morph into a communicative,
not to mention political, tool.”
Designers, not Stylists
I’m pleased to conclude with this
brief (too brief!) remembrance of
Vignelli with another answer that
struck me deeply when I first heard
him tell it and speaks volumes
about his rigor.
When asked about the differ-
ence between designers and styl-
ists, he replied:
“Everything depends upon
method. For example, when a
fashion designer creates a style, he
doesn’t follow a designer’s meth-
od. He follows a stylist’s. Styling
is futile, disposable. Design is not.
Design is timeless. And that’s why
it’s facing a crisis, not design itself,
but the mechanism behind it... A
lot of young people think they’re
doing design when they’re really
stylists. They don’t understand
the mental process of design. They
think the answer to a situation is
to restyle it.”
Still today, a
fashion video is shot
in Piazza di
Spagna—yet it is
screened at a trade
show inMilan
Massimo Vignelli designing a tri-color Fiat 500 for i-Italy. Massimo worked hours pro bono
on this project turning our little company car into “something nobody has designed yet.”
A sign of friendship and appreciation we will never forget.
Below: FIAT President John Elkann at the inauguration of our car. Giovanni Colavita,
sponsor of the i-Italy 500 project, shakes hands with Massimo Vignelli
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