Sadly, 27th May 2014, graphic design legend Massimo Vignelli passed away at the age of 83. The Italian born designer is most famous for his work designing the New York Subway map & signage as well as the graphic design of the infamous American Airlines identity that only until recently was one of the most iconic aircraft liveries in the world.

01american air

Massimo and his wife Lella Vignelli, moved to America in 1966 from their roots in Milan. Massimo lived in New York and started the New York branch of a new company, Unimark, which fast became one of the largest design firms in the world. Massimo Vignelli worked in a wide variety of areas, including interior design, environmental design, package design, graphic design, furniture design, and product design.


In 1971, Massimo resigned from Unimark, parting ways due to the dilution of the original vision the company had. On departure he opened Vignelli Associates with his wife. His clients at Vignelli Associates have included high-profile companies such as IBM, Knoll, Bloomingdale’s and of course American Airlines, although he’s commonly renowned for stating the ‘Eagle’ wasn’t his idea. Most recently he updated his New York City map, whilst retaining the simplistic and beautifully graphic layout.


His clear simplistic and modernist style became iconic for aspiring designers, and his love for clean typography and simple understated graphic touches are still sought after and replicated even by today’s designers. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family, and from everyone at TheDesignAir, he will be sadly missed, as his work was truly loved by all of us.


Vignelli, left a legacy for future designers, by donating his entire archive to The Vignelli Center for Design Studies, at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2008. The Center opened in 2010. “The Vignelli Center for Design Studies will house our comprehensive archive of graphic design, furniture and objects,” said Vignelli. “Under the direction of R. Roger Remington, the Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design at RIT, the center will foster studies related to Modernist design with programs and exhibitions on our work as well as other related subjects. The first one of its kind and size, The Vignelli Center will position RIT on the international forefront of design studies. Lella and I are delighted to see our dream taking shape.

He also has a pdf book on his company’s website, that is well worth a read for any designer. R.I.P. Massimo Vignelli.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

2 replies on “Massimo Vignelli 1931-2014

  1. “infamous American Airlines identity”… Why is it infamous?
    also “simplistic and modernist style” Simplistic suggests it was actually moronic. Don’t you mean simple? Sorry to play English teacher on you, but your poor choice of words weakens an otherwise interesting commentary.

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