Massimo Vignelli’s Book List

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I really wish I was as lucky as Michael Beirut (and the many other graphic designers who got a chance to study and work with Massimo Vignelli!) who not only has known great Massimo Vignelli in person but who also got to start his designer’s career under the guidance of this great graphic designer. Vignelli was truly a great graphic designer. If you live in New York, but have nothing to do with the design world, you might not know that pretty much everywhere you go in NYC, you encounter the works of Vignelli. Subway map? Yes, it’s Vignelli who made such awesome in its simplicity and easy to understand map that has been around forever, and I don’t think it’ll go away any time soon.

He’s one of those graphic designers who makes simple, but very delicious design. It’s delicious because it’s so simple that it makes you ache and wonder – why he could come up with something that simple and you can’t?!

United Colors of Beneton, American Airlines and Bloomingdales – are all his logos…or Knoll furniture?! So simple and at the same time so sleek and sexy…

If you are a graphic designer or you are a graphic design afficionado, you might know that Massimo Vignelli has passed away on May 27, 2014. That was NOT a happy day for many of his followers, students and aspiring graphic designers. As a matter of fact, it was a strange month, because on May 14 died another great artist, designer, teacher – Tony Palladino, who I knew personally. Tony was our mentor – to the four of us in his design class he taught for a few years at the School of Visual Arts. He let us in his house. We met his family. We went through his personal books and drawings. Because of him, we are all still friends. It was a very sad news for us! He was not only a great artist, but a great kind person who taught us how to think and create conceptually and who always said to us: “It’s important to be kind…” I’ll always remember it. Because I truly believe in being kind to your work, colleagues and clients…

Both of these great graphic designers who lived and worked in New York City left a long legacy…for all of us to follow or…at least to try to be a bit better as graphic designers.

A few days ago in one of the newsletters I subscribe from Designers & Books, there was a link to the Massimo Vignelli’s Book List that he shared with the readers – these are the books that inspired him, that made him a great designer. Personally, I was really pleasantly surprised that quite a few of his favorite books are by Russian authors, and with which choices I completely agree!

Translated by JOHN E. WOODS

The pleasure of discovering depth in thinking. A timeless portrait of a world.

ALBERTO MORAVIA
Translated by ANGUS DAVIDSON
FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY
LEWIS MUMFORD

To better understand the place in which we live.

THOMAS MANN
Translated by MICHAEL HENRY HEIM
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

One of my favorite books of all time.

ALBERTO MORAVIA
Translated by ANGUS DAVIDSON

Great for learning about boredom.

My early mentor.

A sharp mind; a great literary critic.

JAMES GEORGE FRAZER

 A masterpiece of anthropology and ethnology.

Swiss typography at its best.

ITALO CALVINO

A fundamental book—a milestone in the growth of any person.

GYORGY KEPES

Kepes opened my eyes and made the world relevant.

My first great Master.

It opened my ears to the essence of music.

The best book for understanding Mozart.

VLADIMIR NABOKOV

Incredibly beautiful writing, accurately painful.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

The best book for understanding provincialism.

THOMAS MANN
SIGFRIED GIEDION

My introduction to modern times.

PHILIP JOHNSON

I love his writing.

ANTON CHEKHOV
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

A landmark in the teaching of art history. Clear rather than facile.

ANTON CHEKHOV
CARLO GIULIO ARGAN

This book, by a terrific historian, is part of my foundation.

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