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The University Magazine

New facility celebrates grand design

Vignelli Center, opening in September, has worldwide connections

Massimo, left, and Lella Vignelli toured the facility named in their honor with Professor Roger Remington on a visit to campus in June. At right, an artist’s rendering of the completed structure.

Massimo, left, and Lella Vignelli toured the facility named in their honor with Professor Roger Remington on a visit to campus in June. At right, an artist’s rendering of the completed structure.

Dedicated to design

A formal ceremony to dedicate the Vignelli Center for Design Studies will take place at the center at 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16. For more information about the center and the event, visit vignellicenter.rit.edu

The Vignelli Center for Design Studies opens this fall on the RIT campus and many in the design field predict it will open the door to countless opportunities for future generations of students and scholars.

The 15,500-square-foot facility adjacent to the Booth Fine Arts Building bears the name of world-renowned designers Lella and Massimo Vignelli. The center will house the archive of the couple’s award-winning work and will also serve as an international hub for design education, scholarship and research, greatly enhancing the scope of the programs in RIT’s School of Design.

“Since the 1980s, it has been a preparation for consolidating the notion of history, theory and criticism into the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at RIT,” says Massimo Vignelli. “It is mind-boggling to think of the position of the center 20, 50 years from now. A series of good teachers will bring forward our dreams and affect hundreds of students who will grow to spread even further our beliefs.”

The Vignellis’ archive will include an extensive collection of original source materials along with many examples of their finished work including corporate identity campaigns for Xerox, American Airlines, Bloomingdales and Ford Motor Co. They’ve also designed jewelry, silverware, and furniture. The Handkerchief Chair, Paper Clip Table and the Stendig calendar are among the timeless classics in the archive. Students, researchers, professional designers and scholars will have the chance to access and study the Vignellis’ work.

In addition to the archive, the center will house offices, a small gallery, classrooms and a major exhibition space, the Benetton Gallery. The Benetton Gallery will exhibit select pieces from the Vignelli collection.

Through the Vignellis, RIT has formed a partnership with Benetton Group and its internationally renowned social communication research center, Fabrica, headquartered in Treviso, Italy. Luciano Benetton, chairman of the Benetton Group, is a longtime business associate and friend of the Vignellis.

Fabrica, which draws artists and designers from all over the world, will offer RIT design students opportunities for internships where they will work on wide-ranging creative projects across many disciplines.

Fabrica invited RIT to collaborate on a project dealing with the future of the retail environment. RIT faculty and students from the E. Philip Saunders College of Business, the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences and B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences participated.

The Vignelli Center is currently in the planning stages of offering industrial design courses in collaboration with RIT’s partner, Rochester General Health System, to design medical equipment. RIT’s graphic design program anticipates involvement in information design projects.

“RIT’s great potential is in its interdisciplinary work,” says R. Roger Remington, RIT’s Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design. “It’s the interdisciplinary collaboration and research that will put this center on the map as a global resource for design. I’m proud the Vignelli Center is serving as a bridge to these kinds of opportunities.”

Adds Richard Grefé, executive director, American Institute of Graphic Arts: “The Vignelli Center for Design Studies will be instrumental in defining the role of design in society and commerce. It recognizes and celebrates the work of Massimo and Lella Vignelli, who are arguably the most influential designers of the past 50 years, for they have demonstrated that design can make the complex clear, can enliven both popular culture and the civic experience, and delight the human spirit.”

Kelly Downs

“The Vignelli Center for Design Studies will be instrumental in defining the role of design in society and commerce. It recognizes and celebrates the work of Massimo and Lella Vignelli, who are arguably the most influential designers of the past 50 years.”

Richard Grefé, executive director, American Institute of Graphic Arts