Modernist Design Pioneer Massimo Vignelli Dies

Acclaimed designer Massimo Vignelli, perhaps best known for his aesthetically groundbreaking if publicly derided 1972 redesign of the New York City subway map, died Tuesday in his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

An avowed modernist, Vignelli is also famous for having said, "If you can design one thing, you can design everything." And even if you aren't a design nerd, you've been looking at Massimo's work for decades now, especially if you live or lived in New York: together with his wife Lella, he branded American Airlines, Ford, and Bloomingdales with the logos we know them for today.

They also designed Fodor's travel guides, furniture you've probably sat on, and plastic housewares you've probably used. The two were recently featured in the documentary Design Is One, which if you can get a hold of, is delightful.

Massimo was born in Milan in 1931 and first visited New York in 1957 before moving to the States permanently in 1966 to start the influential Unimark International, which popularized the creation of complete branding identities for companies. Their early clients included JC Penney, IBM, Gillette, and Knoll.

"Massimo, probably more than anyone else, gets the credit for introducing a European Modernist point of view to American graphic design," Michael Bierut, a partner in design firm Pentagram, told the New York Times.

In 2012, the MTA let Vignelli take the design of his original 1972 subway map (which was only used for seven years because despite its minimalist beauty, it was divorced from any geographic realism) and apply it to a digital map of its weekend routes, called The Weekender.

His work, including his iconic subway map, are on permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others in the U.S. and abroad.

[Image via Getty]