Vignelli Center grand opening Sept. 16
Massimo and Lella Vignelli donate archive; center’s focus is education, scholarship and research
A. Sue Weisler
The iconic work of international designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli is now permanently archived at a new design center, the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, set to open this month on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology.
The Vignellis created the New York City subway signage, the Handkerchief Chair, the Paper Clip Table, the Stendig calendar, the interior of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York City, the corporate identity programs for Xerox, American Airlines, packaging programs for Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue, to name just a few.
An archive of the Vignellis design work over their 40-year career, along with an extensive collection of original source materials, will serve as an international resource and be accessible for study. In addition to the archive storage areas, the nearly 19,000 square foot Vignelli Center also houses offices and the Benetton Gallery, which will feature, “Design is One,” an exhibit comprised of select pieces from the Vignelli collection.
An official dedication ceremony for the Vignelli Center for Design Studies will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 16. The Vignellis will be in attendance.
“In many ways, the Vignellis are to the world of design what Einstein was to physics,” says R. Roger Remington, RIT’s Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design. “Through the scope and integrity of their work, the Vignellis have influenced design for more than four decades. The Vignelli Center for Design Studies at RIT will emphasize design studies (history, theory and criticism) and be a destination for students, faculty, professional designers and scholars from around the world.”
Adds Massimo Vignelli, co-founder of Vignelli Associates: “It is our dream that the center will foster studies related to Modernist Masters, exhibitions on their work and other related subjects. The center elevates RIT and positions the university on the international forefront of design studies. Lella and I are delighted to see our dream take shape.”
The center will serve as a hub for design education, scholarship and research, expanding the scope of the programs offered through RIT’s School of Design. The school offers degree programs in graphic design, industrial design, interior design, new media design and imaging and computer graphics design. The university also has international exchange programs with Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau, Germany, and in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Vignelli collection complements RIT’s 35 collections of Modernist American graphic design pioneers such as Lester Beall, Will Burtin, Cipe Pineles, William Golden and Alvin Lustig, among others. The university began acquiring these collections in the mid 1980s.
“The Vignelli Collection adds to RIT’s impressive holdings in the realm of modernist design studies,” says Remington. “One of our major educational goals is to develop a new graduate degree program in design studies, which will optimize the use of the archives and focus on the history, theory and criticism of design.”
Adds Richard Grefe of the American Institute of Graphic Arts: “The Vignelli Center for Design Studies will be instrumental in defining the role of design in society and commerce. RIT’s commitment to archiving the artifacts of creativity will allow future generations to appreciate and build on the contributions of the Vignellis and other designers in an unprecedented way.”
Through the Vignellis, RIT has formed a partnership with Benetton Group and its internationally renowned social communication research center, Fabrica, headquartered in Treviso, Italy. Fabrica draws artists and designers from all over the world. The main exhibit gallery in the Vignelli Center, the Benetton Gallery, is named in honor of a major donation from the Benetton Group.
A donation from the Helen Hamlyn Trust of Great Britain, in conjunction with RIT, funds the Massimo and Lella Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design. Remington holds the endowed professorship. Lady Helen Hamlyn will be on hand for the dedication ceremony.
Also in attendance at the dedication will be renowned Italian graphic designer Armando Milani. Milani specializes in branding programs and posters for humanistic causes. His exhibit, “From the Eye to the Heart,” will present 50 posters and 50 logotypes and is part of the center’s grand opening. One of his most recognizable posters—Translating War into Peace—was published worldwide in 2005 by the United Nations and is in the exhibition.
To learn more about the Vignellis and their international achievements, visit the Vignelli website.