Vignelli Center
for Design Studies
Rochester Institute of Technology

Welcome to the Vignelli Center for Design Studies

About the Vignelli Center for Design Studies Biography of Massimo Vignelli Biography of Lella Vignelli Accomplishments

Massimo Vignelli



Born in Milan, Italy in 1931, he studied architecture in Milan and Venice between 1950 and 1953. He married Elena Valle (Lella), also an architect, in 1957 and together established the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan in 1960. Feeling the powerful influence from the nearby Swiss, the city of Milan was a dynamic graphic design environment. Massimo Vignelli expanded his professional interests from architecture to graphic design. Max Huber was an especially important influence. By 1965, having emigrated to the United States, Massimo was co-founder of Unimark International Corporation, and then, in 1971, with Lella, he opened Vignelli Associates. Vignelli Designs followed later in 1978.


Many of his landmark projects are now archetypes in the history of design, namely, the corporate identity program for American Airlines (1967), the graphics program for the United States National Park Service (1977), the design of St. Peter’s Church in New York (1977) and the original subway map for New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (1970).


His speaking and writing have helped spread his Modernist aesthetic through a series of books especially design:vignelli (1990),  Lella and Massimo Vignelli: Design is One (2004), Vignelli: From A to Z (2007) and most recently The Vignelli Canon (2010).


The permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Montreal and Die Neue Sammlung in Munich all include Vignelli design.


Massimo has received many awards including an honorary doctorate from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1982, AIGA Gold Medal, the first Presidential Design Award in 1975, and the Medalist Award from the Architectural League in 2010.


Exhibitions of Vignelli’s work have been shown internationally. A major exhibit titled Design: Vignelli  toured Europe between 1989 and 1993.


Professionally he has provided leadership for the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and The Architectural League.


Several feature length films and videos have been produced documenting the Vignellis and their design work. Among these are works by John Jacobson, Roberto Guerra and Kathy Brew. Their latest video Design is One is soon to be released.


The Vignellis were Trustees of Rochester Institute of Technology where they donated their extensive career archive. This Collection is the major resource at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, opened in 2010. The Archive, building and programming serve as a permanent remembrance of this master of design.




Massimo and his Center


Massimo Vignelli passed away in New York on May 27, 2014.


R. Roger Remington, RIT’s Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design, said “As we move forward at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, our task is to extend his legacy of excellence in everything we accomplish. We remember Massimo as a wonderful colleague and teacher. He was beloved by his students. His advice to them was “If you design it right, it will last forever.”