I just heard that Massimo Vignelli passed away this morning at his home.
This makes me sad, not only because he was such an inspiration and exemplary role model for every designer, but because I kind of assumed that someone whose designs were so incredibly timeless would be as well.
He has said, "If you can design one thing, you can design everything," and this is reflected in his broad range of work. His work is timeless (with the exception of the American Airlines Corporate ID, which was replaced with an eagle that looks like the pull tab on a cookie package). and we see it every day. Timeless hallmarks for brands like; American Airlines, J. C. Penney, Knoll Associates, IBM, Bloomingdale's and Cinzano. He created the graphics for the United States National Park Service in 1977, and the subway map for the MTA New York City Transit Authority in 1970.
I was lucky enough to meet him at a seminar and spend time talking with him, and still smile when I remember a fellow speaker saying that design cannot be timeless and we shouldn't even strive for that, but renew it frequently to change it, refresh it, and create more work for us. Which Massimo answered with an impassioned explanation of why the opposite is true, a persuasive statement that he began with "you vulgar hippies". This is a man who taught us that no matter the profit or promise of future work, there is no excuse for producing ugliness and vulgarity.
For inspiration sometime read The Vignelli Cannon (http://www.vignelli.com/canon.pdf) and learn from a master. Someone who knew that a logo is not a brand, but that a brand is a promise and a logo is the uniform it wears to be easily recognizable. Watch the movie Helvetica and be inspired by his mastery and efficiency. There have been many times that his example has given me the incentive to try one more time to convince a client not to do something stupid that they have their heart set on, and more than once the courage to realize that no amount of money is worth producing something useless and vulgar and telling them thanks, but no thanks. And for that I am forever grateful.
I don't know about you, but as someone who makes a living from a field he pioneered, gets inspiration from his body of work and the courage to try and do it right following his example, I am going to miss knowing he is out there not compromising.