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Somebody, pinch me

(If you don’t get the title, go back a couple posts.)

A few days ago, I posted about Italian designer Mateo Bologna. The man makes full typefaces for clients. He does anything from neon signs to lunch menus. All gorgeous, elegant and the bringing out the character of the place.

Last night, I left a lecture that would have made Bologna spit. In fact he almost did when talking about Massimo Vignelli’s highly-anticipated appearance. To say the least, the men have very different tastes.

Vignelli grew up in Milan then moved to the U.S. on a fellowhip. When he was about to go back to Italy, he got offered a position teaching at the Chicago Institute of Art, so he took it. 50 years later and he has designed furniture, housewares, logos, books, etc., and he will tell you all about it.

Maybe you’ve heard the name. Maybe you’re his biggest fan. Maybe you don’t know his work at all. Well here’s a bit of it.

…just to show a few. He says a designer should be able to design anything, “from the spoon to the city.” He hasn’t designed city, but many a spoon.

He blames marketing for the lack of good design. Marketing is to prevent failure–but instead of stepping on egg shells, he says “Kick the trash out of our culture. It’s a beautiful profession. Give dignity to it.”

Leave it to an Italian man to compare design is to a love affair. “You want your affair to be complex, not complicated.”

These quotes are all very beautiful, although, I do have to say many of his designs look very similar. And while I’m not discounting his iconic, pivotal role in design, I like Bologna’s personalized typefaces. Beyond Helvetica, Times, Bodoni and Avant Garde, it seems that Vignelli belittles the job of a type designer.

Perhaps it has to do with his “not trendy–timeless” mantra. O.K. Be timeless. But you don’t always know what’s going to be timeless until you give it some time. Once you’ve been using the same handful of fonts for decades and you see their timeless, maybe you should branch out.

What I love about Bologna’s typefaces is what I dig in Vignelli’s product design. Subtle character. Simple elegant details.

Vignelli believes all design is a discipline, just with different specializations. Easy for him to say. Chairs, lamps, dishes, clothes, logos, books, and the list goes on. I think I can aim to settle my own design on a meeting ground between these two designers.

But I refuse to take Vignelli’s side when he says, “Books are dead–like it or not.”

More on that later.


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