Massimo Vignelli, the influential graphic designer who designed the groundbreaking 1972 subway, is apparently very ill and needs some cheering up. According to Creative Review, he "will be spending his last days at home. His son Luca would like all those for whom Vignelli was either an influence or an inspiration to write him a letter."
According to Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, "Luca said that Massimo would be thrilled to get notes of good wishes from people whom he's touched or influenced - whether personally or remotely - over the years. Luca has visions of huge mail bags full of letters. I know that one of Massimo's biggest fantasies has been to attend his own funeral. This will be the next best thing. Pass the word."
You can send letters to:
130 East 67 Street
New York, New York 10021
Vignelli and his wife Leila founded Vignelli Associates in 1971, and they worked on corporate identity, package design and furniture. But his enduring legacy is with the MTA and his re-imagined subway map. The NY Times reflected on the 40th anniversary of the map:
No sooner had the Metropolitan Transportation Authority introduced a new map of the New York subway system on Aug. 7, 1972, than complaints flooded in. Many stations seemed to be in the wrong places. The water surrounding the city was colored beige, not blue. As for Central Park, it appeared to be almost square, rather than an elongated rectangle, three times bigger than the map suggested, and was depicted in a dreary shade of gray.
The map was, indeed, riddled with anomalies, but that was the point. Its designer, Massimo Vignelli, had sacrificed geographical accuracy for clarity by reinterpreting New York’s tangled labyrinth of subway lines as a neat diagram. Each station was shown as a dot and linked to its neighbors by color-coded routes running at 45- or 90-degree angles. Mr. Vignelli had used his design skills to tidy up reality.
Design buffs have always loved his map for its rigor and ingenuity. When the future graphic designer Michael Bierut made his first trip to New York in 1976, he took one home to Ohio as a souvenir. But many New Yorkers were outraged by what they saw as the misrepresentation of their city, while tourists struggled to relate Mr. Vignelli’s design to what they found above ground. In 1979, the M.T.A. bowed to public pressure by replacing his diagrammatic map with a geographical one.
The 1972 subway map is in the collection of the MoMA and Vignelli designed a special, limited edition 2008 update of the subway system to raise money for the Green Worker Cooperative. And while the MTA still uses geographically accurate subway maps these days, Vignelli's design is used for the MTA's Weekender subway map and, most recently, the Super Bowl 2014 transportation map. For more of his sleek work, the Vignelli and Bob Noorda-designed New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual is online, too.
On the Vignelli Associates website, there's a quote from Vignelli: "I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless."
Send Massimo a letter!