Massimo Vignelli’s contributions to design and architecture were revolutionary for their time; it was his work in graphic design, however, that served as a vital component to the development of Digital Storytelling, as we know it today. After all, this is the man responsible for the creation of four different typefaces – Century Expanded, Garamond No. 3, Helvetica, and Bodoni – in his lifetime.
For this part of our weekly checklist, we read the e-book, The Vignelli Canon, and tried to comprehend what we were reading and, for the most part, seeing. This book is light on text, and heavy on visuals, for any potential readers out there, and considering the message Vignelli wanted to get across, I think this works to his advantage.
In the same vein as previous reflections done earlier this semester, Massimo feels like we have untapped potential within us, as designers, and aren’t using it to the best of our abilities. One of the key reasons behind this deficiency is because we just don’t know how many details go into this profession.
Vignelli shows us what the missing pieces are, and where they’re supposed to fit, from the very first chapter, as he states that, quote, “I have always said that there are three aspects in Design that are important to me: Semantic, Syntactic and Pragmatic.” What he means by these three things are “the search of the meaning of whatever we have to design;” “the discipline that controls the proper use of grammar in the construction of phrases and the articulation of a language, (such as) Design;” and the belief that “whatever we do, if not understood (by someone), fails to communicate and is wasted effort,” respectively.
These descriptions help readers see how much heart Massimo had in his lifetime, with regards to why he did what he did, for as long as he did; it seems that the point of graphic design, of Digital Storytelling, and of art, in all of its forms, is so others can use our creations to remember us, long after we’re gone. Our short-term mission is to pass another class on the road to graduation, but when it comes to DS106, the long-term goal is to allow those, who see these projects for the first time, to form their own opinions about what they’re seeing, what they’re hearing, and what they’re feeling, and not just agree with what the creators, themselves, think. Just like the entertainers of old, you don’t have to get your audience on your side all the time, to make sure that they go home happy.
This leads me to suspect that, at least in Massimo’s eyes, art is not only, to paraphrase Pablo Picasso, “the lie that tells the truth,” but the word that speaks in silence, as well. Proof of this theory is strewn throughout the pages of this book; Vignelli speaks his honest opinions on what makes graphic design great on one page, and we see a visual example of said opinions, in the form of one of the many things he helped create over the years, such as the lettering system for New York subways, the next.
It shows how much Vignelli cares about art when he’s willing to show his works in such an intimate manner as this, even as he tells us all about them, like its your typical grand tour of his estate. On top of that, the lessons he provides stretch out to all forms of creation, as art is, basically, an extension of personal vices, virtues, and life experiences in the past, present, and future; there’s a reason we keep hearing about “life imitating art,” or vice versa, to this day.
In closing, I wholeheartedly agree with Massimo, when he says that, “As designers, we have three levels of responsibility: One – to ourselves, the integrity of the project and all its components. Two – to the Client, to solve the problem in a way that is economically sound and efficient. Three – to the public at large, the consumer, the user of the final design.” If that doesn’t sum up the ramifications of Digital Storytelling in our day-to-day lives, I don’t want to know what does.