Vignelli gets on it

This spot is like sitting down in a comfy $15,000 leather Vignelli couch. You may want to stretch out on it, and you will most certainly be left wanting more of it in your life. Obviously well-timed for the opening of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at RIT, the spot (below) is full to the brim of quotable quips from the modern master, which is expected from a man with as many years of experience in any field. He has mentioned a few things though that I thought were particularly interesting.

You have to train yourself to have vision, courage and determination. These three things to me are very important. You have to work with people who have this and at the same time you have to have it so you can instill it in people.

You should not have a fear of failure, this is what marketing is all about, fear of failure. Instead you have to have courage. Courage not to fail, courage even to fail.

Also, his commentary on the state of design education I found of particular interest.

The quality of education that there is now was not available 50 years ago. Today from a certain point of view the United States has even taken leadership in design. There are thousands, really thousands of students of design coming out in the market every year. When I was young, very few, as a matter of fact.

Watching Massimo update his iconic 1972 design of the Manhattan subway system for the iPad was pretty much the highlight of my week. He is not allowed to pass away, this living treasure of modernism still contributes to our field in such a magnanimous way that I can’t quite imagine design without him around. I find it so interesting when designers work their whole lives and then keep going long after the age of retirement. There has got to be some study out there with the percentage, it must be very high.

Regarding his remarks on design education, it is a phenomenon. Still, the mainstream (err, everyone in my life at least) doesn’t know what a designer does. When I tell someone my field they always ask “so you make, like, brochures, right?” However, just at Portland State University alone there are 500+ design majors being pumped out into this relatively small town every year. Is there going to be a saturation point? Or just a curve where only the exceptionally determined get jobs. If you ask me that sounds cut-throat.

What I wouldn’t give to stand in front of Vignelli’s personal library. It’s probably one of the best libraries in the United States, in regards to design, and probably everything that influences it, which, is everything. He seems so calm and methodical about his approach. Like the way he sits down and draws a room with a pencil in perfect perspective. Excuse me, but what a bad ass. Can I buy you a bourbon, sir? Portland will embrace you if you ever come this way, I promise. Then, perhaps you could update our janky Tri-Met program to something useful, and hopefully, not vulgar.

10 Responses to “Vignelli gets on it”
  1. There are times that my own ideology butts up against Mr. Vignelli’s. But I’d be hard pressed to not want to throw all of my weight behind his comments in the video, scream an “Amen!” and don my pom-poms for the guy. His work speaks for itself, but the insight and wisdom that comes from longevity isn’t something we get very often in our young field. We should always listen, but we should listen extremely closely when luminaries like Vignelli, Glaser, and others speak.

    About design education and your comments about it, Aaron, I feel obliged to comment because this is obviously something I have an interest in, and a field where I feel as if I have a stake in the outcome. I believe Kate told me once that in the US we graduate about 25,000 design students every year. That is staggering. I think this implies a couple of different things. First, I believe that there is a certain responsibility for the student to prescribe their own future instead of subscribing to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean to work for themselves (although it could), but for them to devise a way to prove their own individual, unique value either to their own clients, or to an eventual employer. It will not be as simple as applying for a job with a listing in the classifieds. Students will have to invent their own jobs. I think this is a similar situation as what’s happened with you.

    The second thing it implies is that many students simply can not get jobs in the directly field because at some point the industry will reach its saturation point. And this is the inspiring part to me, because if we truly believe in the value of design and the way of thinking it teaches, it means that we can begin very cautiously treating it as a liberal art in addition to treating it as a craft. It is, of course, a craft at its core: the skill of speaking clearly through form, empathizing with users, constructing narratives and stories, and crafting meaningful content. But also, it is a communication method and a thought process whose value and applications far extend beyond the borders of what we consider the realm of design today. To frame the thought, no one would dare say that communication methods and best practices of speaking be reserved solely for public speakers to practice. The same is true of visual communication. The joys and knowledge of effective communication should be afforded and taught to us all, whether that is through written word, spoken word, or form.

    Thanks for sharing. Vignelli’s an inspiration. It’s always wonderful to see old eyes that hold wisdom and curiosity at the same time.

  2. Aaron says:

    What a comment.
    As the field gets saturated and we begin to create our own careers and design is treated more and more like a liberal art as you mentioned, I look forward to seeing the field morph and develop stronger niches. I was just speaking with a narrative experience designer last month and we got to talking about how even three or four years ago no one was talking about narrative storytelling or knew how to defend it. It was something that had to be explained at length to win pitches and convince clients & humans that there was value to it.

    Today, firms have entire departments devoted to narrative storytelling.
    Perhaps the third thing that can happen is that the field exponentially broadens but simultaneously deepens with those 25,000 graduates.

    To niches in a morphing field. May we be educated enough to be useful in more than one of them. Thanks for your candor + perspective, as always.

  3. Sure, we can carve out niches by task, or niche by client sector, but I think the real opportunities lies in going small, and carving a niche in your approach to the work. The ultimate niche is to develop a individualistic point of view. It isn’t about methodology, it is about having a certain tone of voice and definition of success.

    It will be interesting to see how the field develops as the opportunities change. There is a thought in the back of my head that seems to gain more momentum as time progresses: I want to steer my career to mimic that of a film director and the relationships they foster and develop with their collaborators, whether screenwriter or director of photography.

    And, I suppose this all comes around, because to be an auteur, you need vision.

  4. First of all Massimo is such a glorious person. I’ve always been quite fond of his work, and I’m completely blown away by all of the different facets of design he has touched. So there’s that.

    Good stuff Frank and Aaron!

    I agree that as an almost done with school designer we do have to make our way rather than wait for things happen, one has to get out there and find what you want and pursue that. That pursuit might entail doing things on your own or just unconventionally as one’s self. I personally fear that large number of graduates flooding the design job market but at the same time there are no other Michael Eaton’s out there or Aaron Rayburn’s either. That gives me hope in this endeavor of become a working designer. I believe that smart places of design employment are persons who hire persons, people who hire people it’s less about technical skills and more about how You solve problems and that’s why Mr. Jelly Helm choose Mr. Aaron Rayburn over the other candidates.

    I’m not one who puts down thoughts in writing very well so I hope that this makes sense if it sounds crazy disregard it, I unfortunately don’t have enough time to go over this two or three more times to make sure I’m making sense…

    Finally I feel very blessed to know you the two of you. You both have lots to share and I’m glad you are quite prolific keep up the great work you do.

  5. Aaron says:

    I’ve got you Michael, you were very clear.
    Thanks for the comment, and back at you on all points.
    I cringe at the idea of having to pitch myself to a potential employer who has no idea who I am or what I am capable of. It’s sterile. And also demeaning. Creating your own career is just a hell of a lot more interesting.

  6. It is so crucial to develop a smart and sharp point of view, foster sincere relationships and cultivate a desire to tell stories for yourself and for other people. These things will set you apart. Good dialogue dude friends!

  7. Frank, your second comment kind of nails it (of course). Aaron, Michael, Kate or any other reader – whether you head into this field solo, into a firm or agency, or even some in-house thing, you will be inventing your career every step of the way. POV, and having niche talents or approach will be the rudder that steers your ship. Every project you work on will guide your destination. At least it has for me, and I have approached every project with that assumpiton. Openess is the key. Be open to working for nothing, be open to working for a lot, be open to the ideas of others, be open to projects too big, be open to the little ones, be open to every possibility, grip that rudder, and steer your majestic ship in the direction you want. Ok, getting a little viking mood going, sorry.

    Let me share this – working in a large agency setting has taught me that nobody(really) knows what the hell you are good at, or where you strengths are, unless you show them. I see lots of really talented designers(much better than myself) get swept away in the current and feel frustrated because they’re talents aren’t being utilized. I believe that it’s directly related to how THEY define sucess. Is it prescribed? Or do they invent? For me, success is about getting opportunities to work on things beyond my abilities, or comfort – work that challenges me, and forces me to learn new tricks – and having opportunities to collaborate with people I admire. I could probably spend the rest of my days making rock posters and album art for cool bands, and make a decent living doing so, but I decided a few years ago, that path really didn’t align with my perspective, or potential. Like Jelly says, what is your Potential? What are you abundant in?

    And lets not forget, dudes like Mossimo, and Milton worked and worked and worked. They are makers who made lives out of making things. That perspective, niche, or voice that designers need, comes from making things.

    Awesome discussion Brosefs! Love this blog.

  8. Aaron says:

    word. Lloyd the 4th has spoken.
    And apparently Kate is now a Brosef!

  9. Yeah! I like what Lloyd the 4th talked about, I see myself steering that ship {or I’m at least trying to steer it as best I can} I think positive proactive-ness is key you HAVE to be MAKING and DOING things you love along with new things. Good Points Sir Lloyd!

    Kate, I have no idea where I’d be without you as a professor, mentor and friend and apparently brosef!

    I love that this dialog just keeps on keeping on. I’m stoked for the next discussion topic…or the continuation of this one.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Benjamin Friesen, Fort Port Blog. Fort Port Blog said: little spot on massimo, that handsome devil […]

Leave A Comment