Massimo Vignelli – An appreciation for Presentation Designers

I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless.
— Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli is gravely ill. His son, Luca, announced the news, and invited the world to write his father with their appreciation for his influence.

Lella and Massimo Vignelli belong to a generation of designers who formalized the language of Design and Visual Communication. They found beauty in the elegance of Swiss Design and mainstreamed it into products, images and ideas that are inseparable from our experience of life and society.

I had the privilege of taking a weeklong class at La Escuela de Diseño Altos de Chavón in 2006, delivered by Mr. and Mrs. Vignelli and by designer, Domingo Milani.

As someone who had stumbled into design (from the somewhat parallel world of illustration), and had adopted a shallow understanding of the profession, I found the course challenging. I found freedom in grids, typography and space that I had formally found restraining. Restraints became constraints that clarified and expanded my thinking.

It has taken a long time for these lessons to show up in my work.

These lessons are the backbone of the training` I teach professionals around the world to aid in improving their presentations. I quote the Vignellis' book – Design is One:

Semantically correct. In other words, search for the real meaning and the correct signs that connote the object you are working with.
Syntactically consistent. Every detail must be consistent to itself and to the whole. No borrowed elements. The language is one and every detail should speak the same language.
Pragmatically understandable. Otherwise, design is a failure, no matter how beautiful it is.Design is not art, design should express its meaning and that should be universally understandable.
Design should also be:
Visually powerful. Otherwise it has no penetrating value. There is no middle ground. Powerful or nothing. Nothingness is not perceivable; therefore it is not retainable. Period.
Intellectually elegant. Not elegant as mannerism, but intellectually sublime. The opposite of vulgar, because vulgarity is ignorance.
But, above all:
Timeless. Because we have a responsibility to our clients, ourselves and the society in general to design things that will become obsolete, because obsolescence, particularly planned obsolescence, is a social crime whose ultimate goal is only profit for the few over the masses. And designers should not be a part of this despicable conspiracy.
— Massimo Vignelli's Foreword to "Lella and Massimo Vignelli: Design is One"

Farewell, MV – Timeless.

The Vignelli Canon
By Massimo Vignelli
Starring Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Michael Bierut, Neville Brody