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5 Surprising Vignelli Designs

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Industrial and graphic designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli are giants in their field. (You may know them for any number of instantly recognizable design objects, from the New York City transit signage and subway map to printed posters for the Salone del Mobile fair in Milan.) Massimo Vignelli is also a man of many words, most of them quotable, so we jumped at the chance to listen on his talk last week as part of the ShopTalk series at the MoMA Design Store in New York. Throughout their decades-long career, the Vignellis have completed a dizzying array of work—some of it which may surprise even the most ardent Vignelli follower. Here are five designs that deserve as much recognition as a certain sans-serif font employed in a certain subway system. (Bonus round: consider also his Cats and Dogs guidebooks from 1985, or the James Turrell-like neon of the old Artemide store in Miami from 1987.)
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  Interiors of Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan on Lexington Avenue at 54th Street. Massimo and Lella also designed silver pieces for the altar, a square concrete font with paschal candle, a tree of candles, and the organ case.

    Interiors of Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan on Lexington Avenue at 54th Street. Massimo and Lella also designed silver pieces for the altar, a square concrete font with paschal candle, a tree of candles, and the organ case.

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  Vignelli designed every issue of Architectural Record magazine for a few years in the early 1980s. In typical Vignelli fashion, the design was based on a grid system to ensure consistency and continuity of design.

    Vignelli designed every issue of Architectural Record magazine for a few years in the early 1980s. In typical Vignelli fashion, the design was based on a grid system to ensure consistency and continuity of design.

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  Saratoga modular seating system designed in 1964 for Italian company Poltronova.

    Saratoga modular seating system designed in 1964 for Italian company Poltronova.

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  A new, standardized version of the Bodoni typeface. Vignelli refined this Bodoni to set specifically with Helvetica, since he couldn't find a Bodoni with the same size and proportions. He and Lella also designed a table with the same name: "Here is an example of interaction between one field of design and another. I call this the Bodoni Table, because the Bodoni typeface has big thick vertical strokes and very thin serifs, just as you see in this table."

    A new, standardized version of the Bodoni typeface. Vignelli refined this Bodoni to set specifically with Helvetica, since he couldn't find a Bodoni with the same size and proportions. He and Lella also designed a table with the same name: "Here is an example of interaction between one field of design and another. I call this the Bodoni Table, because the Bodoni typeface has big thick vertical strokes and very thin serifs, just as you see in this table."

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  The United States' National Park Service collateral (which won the US Presidential Design Award in 1985). The Unigrid is a modular system meant to save costs by predetermining everything from "paper size to graphics to cartography and illustration."

    The United States' National Park Service collateral (which won the US Presidential Design Award in 1985). The Unigrid is a modular system meant to save costs by predetermining everything from "paper size to graphics to cartography and illustration."

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