Lella Vignelli

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Lella Vignelli
Vignelli Center RIT.jpg
Lella (left) and Massimo Vignelli in front of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology in 2010.
Born August 13, 1934
Udine, Italy
Education University of Venice, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture
Organization Vignelli Associates
Known for Founder of Vignelli Designs
Spouse(s) Massimo Vignelli

Lella Vignelli is the founder of Vignelli Associates and the wife of Massimo Vignelli. She has had "a lifelong collaborative working relationship" with her husband.[1] She is known to be the business arm of Vignelli Associates, and played a key role in the success of the design firm.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Lella Vignelli was born in Udine, Italy. She received a degree from the University of Venice's School of Architecture and a tuition fellowship as a special student at MIT's School of Architecture. In 1962, she became a registered architect in Milan.[4]


In 1959, Vignelli joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as a junior interior designer in Chicago. In 1960, in conjunction with her husband, she established the Massimo and Lella Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan where she specialized in interiors, furniture, exhibition, and product design. In 1965 she joined Unimark International, Corporation for Design and Marketing and, shortly thereafter, became the Unimark executive interior designer in their New York office. In 1971, the Vignellis established Vignelli Associates and opened offices in New York, Paris, and Milan.[5] Finally in 1978, Vignelli became the CEO of Vignelli Designs, being a talented designer in the fields of interiors and product design. She collaborated closely with Denise Scott Brown. [6] LelIa Vignelli is a frequent speaker and juror for national and international design organizations. She is a member of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the International Furnishings and Designer Association (IFDA), and the Decorators Club of New York. [7]

She and her husband have been described as "iconic, impossibly exotic characters" in New York.[8] In 1972, the Vignellis designed a map for the New York subway system based on "abstract simplicity".[8] Their design firm has helped create branding for many companies including Knoll American Airlines, the Ford Motor Company, American Airlines and Bloomingdale's.[8] Even though their accomplishments belong to both Lella and Massimo, Lella's critical eye guided the rational and geometric language one can find in their work. [9]

In 1982 Lella Vignelli and her husband won the AIGA Medal.[3]

Lella Vignelli's contributions while at Vignelli Associates [10][edit]

Vignelli Associates, founded by Lella and Massimo Vignelli in 1971, worked in corporate identity, transportation, architectural, books, magazines, and exhibition design.

Corporate Identity Programs[edit]


Transportation Graphics[edit]

  • New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, 1966
  • Washington Metro Transportation, 1968

Philosophy of Design[edit]

Vignelli believed that all design should stem from a core discipline that could be translated to any project. She also believed that design should be integrated into the production process instead of added superficially at the end.

Vignelli's design is centered on communication through simplicity and careful planning. She used subtractive design, rather than additive design, to restrain her own influence and allow the essence of the design to come through. Emphasis was placed on existing and ancient motifs and elements, as well as materials' natural characteristics. She viewed words as a way to communicate actual ideas rather than serving as visual decoration, and this is evidenced by her heavy use of black text on a white background. In general, color was used for its emotional and sensual power.[11]

Vignelli Center for Design Studies[edit]

Massimo and Lella Vignelli agreed to donate the entire archive of their design work in 2008 to the Rochester Institute of Technology, near Rochester, New York.[12] The archive will be exhibited in a new building designed by Lella and Massimo Vignelli, to be k[2]nown as The Vignelli Center For Design Studies. The building, which opened in September 2010, includes among its many offerings exhibition spaces, classrooms, and offices.


  1. ^ Vit, Armin; Bryony Gomez Palacio (2009). Graphic Design, Referenced: A Visual Guide to the Language, Applications, and History of Graphic Design. Rockport Publishers. p. 160. ISBN 9781592534470. 
  2. ^ a b Conradi, Jan. "Looking Back, Thinking Forward: A Narrative of the Vignellis." Design Observer 9 September 2010.
  3. ^ a b Massimo and Lella Vignelli, AIGA website.
  4. ^ "Lella Vignelli". RIT Libraries. Rochester Institute of Technology. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Ockman, Joan (1981). Design Vignelli. Milano-Italia: Amilcare Pizzi S.p.A. p. 5. ISBN 0-8478-0373-2. 
  6. ^ Butler, C. et al, eds. 2010. Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Arts. MoMA.
  7. ^ http://www.vignelli.com/
  8. ^ a b c Lovine, Julie V. (October 21, 2007). "The Vignellis: In an instant, their pared-down designs—for the subway, Bloomingdale’s, American Airlines—conjure a particular moment in the city’s history.". New York (New York City). Retrieved September 1, 2012. 
  9. ^ Celant, Germano (1990). Design—Vignelli; essays. New York, NY: International Publications, Inc. p. 20. ISBN 0-8478-1140-9. 
  10. ^ Celant, Germano (1990). Design—Vignelli: essays. New York, NY: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. pp. 30–104. ISBN 0-8478-1140-9. 
  11. ^ Celant, Germano (1990). Design-Vignelli: essays. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 0847811409. 
  12. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (August 11, 2010). "Designers Donate Their Archives". New York Times (New York City).