The Art of Design: Massimo Vignelli (Video)

Massimo Vignelli

It was a cool, crisp, New York afternoon. Amidst the quietness inside the taxicab, the air, the city, was full of excitement. An endless amount of cars stood between us and our destination. I checked my watch and read the time: 2:55pm. “Great,” I thought, “We’ll be late.”

I picked up my phone and dialed. Seconds later, a serene and sweet voice answers. “Hello?” “Mr. Vignelli , I mean, Massimo,” I said, as I remembered what he had insisted I should call him, “It’s Maria Elena. Just wanted to tell you I’m on my way. We’ve hit terrible traffic; huge jam on 4th avenue.”  To this, he calmly replies, “No worries, I’ll be here.” His voice was a soothing melody that juxtaposed with undeniable perfection the chaos that was the city.

Minutes - or what seemed as an eternity - later, we pulled up to his apartment. Bags, cameras, tripods and iPad in hand, we quickly made it through the building.

Massimo Vignelli, 83 and Italian-born, answered the door with a warm and endearing smile, wearing his signature color – black. It took us a couple of seconds to fully grasp and process the long- awaited moment. He immediately showed us in, gave us a tour of his beautiful home and led us into his living room office. A brilliantly-lighted double height black-and-white space with nothing but a massive window and a square table, evoked his bona-fide credo consistent through decades.

It seemed as though every corner of his home portrayed that distinctive Vignelli philosophy: simplicity and elegance. As Ernesto, More Than Branding’s beloved video director set up the cameras, I sat down with Massimo and reviewed the questions for the interview. His graceful manner during our conversation reflected the ease in which he, very graciously, obliged for an interview weeks before. I had always dreamed of discussing the world of design with a man responsible for the creation of so many iconic products – a man who has contributed so much to the field of branding and communications. Equipped with my massive notes and questions, we began. 

As a child who grew up in the design-driven city of Milan, Massimo knew he wanted to pursue a life in the field by the young age of 14. After attending the Polytechnic University of Milan, he worked in the Studio of Achille Casteglioni, a world-renowned Italian designer. It was here where Vignelli’s famous maxim started taking its shape. It was here where the concept of applying the fundamentals of design to everything in a minimal, simplistic way, became the essence of his ideology and his craft.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli

The incomparable duo: Massimo and Lella Vignelli in their New York City apartment. (Photo by John Madere)

He and his wife Lella founded Vignelli Associates more than four decades ago after moving from Italy to New York City during the 1960’s. With a vast formation in the field of architecture and design, they set forth on a journey that has resulted in an undisputable stamp on our visual culture. Their profession has encompassed everything from architecture, advertising, corporate identity, graphic design, packaging, interiors, product design, books, magazines (among them AAA), furniture and industrial design, as well as countless other products under their distinguishable and iconic aesthetic.

Within the corporate world, they were responsible for the creation of notorious brands such as American Airlines, Bloomingdale’s, Ford, IBM, United Colors of Benetton, Heller, Knoll and a myriad of others across the globe. During the 70’s, the Vignelli’s developed what became the legendary map and signage for the New York City Metro System.

New York City Metro

In an interview for Design Boom, he described his work as: “Spare, essential, intellectually elegant, strong, and timeless.” The Vignelli brand is the embodiment of the attitude that less is always more - ridding oneself of the unnecessary in pursuit of conciseness and sophistication.

In addition to practicing their profession, Massimo and his wife Lella both taught, wrote, served as jury and board members, lectured and contributed their talent to the field of design. It was this proclivity that led them to Dominican Republic in 2006, as visiting professors in the esteemed Altos de Chavón School of Design

Amongst the Vignellis’ many accomplishments, Massimo and Lella were awarded the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Gold Medal in 1982 and were included in the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1988. The AIGA medal —the most distinguished in the field—is awarded to professionals who have have excelled in the field of design and visual communication throughout the actual practice of design, teaching, writing or general leadership.

Perhaps one of the best definitions of the Vignelli design is found in an article written in 1983 by David Brown, Wylie Davis and Rose DeNeve published in AIGA Graphic Design: 

“It is not enough that something—a chair, an exhibition, a book, a magazine—looks good and is well designed. The ‘why’ and the ‘how,’ the very process of design itself, must be equally evident and quite beyond the tyranny of individual taste. The Vignelli commitment to the correctness of a design has taken their work beyond the mechanical exercise of devising a form best suited to a given function. They've always understood that design itself, in the abstract, could and should be an integral part of function. More than a process and a result, design—good design—is an imperative.”

United Colors of Benetton

Massimo Vignelli is the personification of a commitment to excellence fueled by an undeniable passion for the field of design – “Design that is visually powerful, that is intellectually elegant, and above all, timeless.”  I can’t help but admire this relentless approach to raising the bar of one’s profession, to the establishment of a legacy that interconnects with all areas of our daily lives. My profound respect stems from his infallible pursuit of relevance, to his keenness in observing everything and everyone – to reading life and contributing to it.

After two and a half hours, we were done with the interview. That same night I followed-up with a thank you email, to which he kindly replied including this last comment:

“There is no valid branding without an overall integrity of the company or products - otherwise is just empty styling - reflecting the company’s overall shallowness. And that is the kiss of death for any kind of company. I see this as a fundamental issue in relation to branding. It’s either real or it is phony. There is no middle ground on these issues.”

In a world so concerned with what is said and done, this moment during the video will forever echo in my heart: “The most important thing is to observe, keep track of everything and not miss anything…” accompanied by his enthusiastic smile - contagious and eternal. 


To watch the interview with Spanish subtitles, click here. / Para ver la versión subtitulada al español, haz click aquí.

Photo credits: John Madere / Massimo and Lella Vignelli.

Dominican Republic announces Young Marketers representatives for the 2014 Cannes Lions

 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity

The race to the 2014 Cannes Lions  has officially begun, and it seems like it was only yesterday when Yasser Mármol and I were getting ready for the opportunity of not only attending, but also representing the Dominican Republic in the Young Lions Marketers Competition.  Inspired by the experience we were about to live, a series under the name of  "Road to Cannes"  was published in order to capture the spirit of what could possibly be considered as the most exciting and mind-bloggling event in the life of an advertising or marketing executive.  

Twelve months and countless posts later, this girl is back and ready for more. As we approach the big day of the festival, the folks of Cannes Lions in Dominican Republic have already started the quest of finding this year's representatives for four of the Young Lions categories: Marketing, Film, Cyber and Design.  In the Young Marketers category, each team of two is asked to produce a brief for a charity or cause and create a product, service or movement based on the topic. The ideas are presented in front of a jury over the course of (and no more than) 5 minutes.

This year's winning duo is Jennifer Terrero and Victoria Feliz, who presented a campaign for the office of the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, under the name of "Programa 360." The proposal included a strategy and plan of action supporting the prevention of domestic violence in all sectors and levels of society. 

Up next is a video on what went down that day. Stay tuned for upcoming posts as the winners of the other categories are announced.


An anniversary in pictures

Banco Popular Dominicano

It's been 50 years since Banco Popular Dominicano opened its doors in the Dominican Republic. Today a leader within the industry, the brand has been keen on embracing new technologies in all parts of the spectrum - operations, products and communications. 

Hace 50 años abrió sus puertas el Banco Popular Dominicano en la República Dominicana. Hoy un líder en su categoría, siempre ha manifestado su interés en acoger e implementar las nuevas tecnologías en todos los aspectos - operacional, dentro de su cartera de productos y en sus comunicaciones. 

To celebrate its anniversary, the bank launched a national photo contest on Instagram and invited the nation to post pictures that reflect the transformation of the Dominican Republic during the last century - pictures that convey changes in infrastructure, urban planning, telecommunications, industrial development, scientific advancements, among other things.

Para celebrar su aniversario, acaba de lanzar un concurso nacional en la red social de Instagram, el cual consiste en motivar a los dominicanos a subir fotografías que reflejen la transformación de la República Dominicana durante el último siglo - fotografías que transmiten los cambios en infraestructura, urbanismo, telecomunicaciones, desarrollo industrial, avances científicos, entre otros.

Banco Popular Dominicano

 The mechanics of the contest are fairly simple: follow the brand on Instagram (@Popularenlinea), upload up to three pictures including the hashtags #RD21 and #Popular50años, assign a title and description for the image, and presto. The ten best photos will take home prizes such as iPads, laptops and photography courses from Chavón

La mecánica del concurso es sencilla: para concursar, la persona debe seguir la marca en Instagram (@Popularenlinea), subir hasta tres fotos con los hashtags #RD21 y #Popular50años, aplicar un título y descripción para la foto, y listo. Las diez mejores imágenes se llevarán premios tales como iPads, laptops y cursos de fotografía en Chavón.

Banco Popular Concurso

To this moment, hundreds of pictures have already been submitted to the contest, triggering a connection between the bank and the people through visual content and social media - proving that universal truth: "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Hasta el momento, cientos de fotos han sido subidas a la plataforma de Instagram para el  concurso, lo cual ha generado una dinámica interesante entre el banco y las personas mediante el contenido visual y las redes sociales - lo cual comprueba esa verdad universal: "Una imagen vale más que mil palabras."

For more information, check out: www.popularenlinea.com

Para más información, entra a: www.popularenlinea.com 

Images courtesy of / Imágenes cortesía de: Banco Popular Dominicano

Samsung, Big Mama’s and the brands that shook up this year’s Academy Awards

If there's one thing we've learned in the last 86 years, it's that Oscar night is without a doubt the biggest party in showbiz. As celebrities flocked the Dolby Theater on Sunday night, 2014 proved, yet again, what a powerful platform it can be for brands who want to leverage Hollywood's big night.

Though big names such as Mercedes-Benz, JC Penny, Chevrolet, American Express and Chobani followed a traditional approach when it came to advertising, it was Samsung, Twitter and a pizzeria by the name of Big Mama's & Papa's Pizzeria who stole the show, proving that authentic and spontaneous interactions during the show leave a far more powerful impression on viewers. 

Samsung Galaxy Academy Awards Oscars

Samsung, a big sponsor of the event, was more than present during the live telecast, especially during moments when host Ellen Degeneres took out a Galaxy mobile phone out of her pocket. The golden moment came when she attempted to snap a photo of her and Meryl Streep, which soon turned into the most star-studded group selfie, ever. 

Samsung Galaxy Academy Awards Oscars

The epic picture taken with the phone and posted on Twitter set a new record for the most number of retweets ever - an incredible amount of 2.4 million as of Monday - making it without a doubt the coolest product placement during the Oscars, and the most successful social media moment in modern history. The platform was mentioned several times and stole the show at one point, especially when Ellen announced that the they had accidentally 'broken' Twitter: "We crashed and broke Twitter. We made history." "It's fantastic. See what we did, Meryl?"


But perhaps one of the funniest moments came from Ellen when she offered pizza (with a real delivery guy) from Big Mama's and Papa's to the stars in the audience.


Big Mamas and Papas Pizzeria

Another brand who received a lovely surprise was Miller Lite, mentioned by Matthew McConaughey during his speech towards the end of the show: "To my father, who I know is up there right now with a big pot of gumbo; he's got a lemon meringue pie, probably in his underwear and he's got a cold can of Miller Lite and he's dancing..."

Of course, the brand did not let this historical moment slip through its fingers. It immediately posted:

Miller Lite Oscars

This year proved that interaction and authenticity is monumental and brands need to be ready to make the best of these opportunities - especially when it comes to live events.

Other stars at this year's Oscars:

 Google 


Chevrolet


American Express


Lipton


Pepsi 


Chobani


 JC Penny


 

Our favorite Super Bowl Ads on Youtube Blitz

Year in and year out, the Super Bowl provides sports fans, viewers and advertisers one exciting and memorable night. 2014 was no different. The Seattle Seahawks conquered the Denver Broncos with an outstanding score of 43 - 8, considered by experts as the "greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history against the greater offence in NFL history."  But we're not really here to talk about sports, are we?

Let's get to it. 

As ever, Super Bowl Sunday is the holiday of holidays for advertisers and footfall fans alike. With 30-second spots at $4 million a pop ( that's about $133,000 per second), the quest for advertising efficiency is at an all-time high. Just like last year, social media played an exciting role for the pre-game promotion and hype; a strategy that allowed brands to set the tone and engage with customers sooner. As Paul Fahri expressed, "A Super Bowl commercial is just the start of an advertiser’s advertising . . . about its Super Bowl advertising. The commercial is just the middle. Thanks to social media, companies engage in a buildup about their ads before the game, and most follow up afterward, too." The Super Bowl may have ended, but thanks to Youtube, it ads will still resonate.

Youtube Ad Blitz

Youtube has returned with its Ad Blitz featuring the list of Super Bowl spots, inviting us to watch, vote and share our favorite ads of the night. Honestly, I am loving the idea of having a Super Bowl "hub" on Youtube; everything in one place, perfectly organized. It offers brands a longevity to their Marketing efforts and gets people voting on what they really liked after watching it several times. And if Ad Blitz 2014 performs anywhere near what it did in 2013 - which offered a combined view of 110 million views, 1.3 million hours and 60 million daily impressions - we're talking about money well spent.

Youtube Ad Blitz

"The real contest at the big game is not fought in the field; the real contest is between advertisers and their commercials. And that commercial is fought - and won - on Youtube Ad Blitz." You got that right.

Go to Youtube and click VOTE under your favorite video. Simple.