“That beautiful feeling of enrichment that comes from new discoveries, new ways of doing the same thing better than before.” – Massimo Vignelli
Throughout high school, I was a part of our newspaper team and was the design editor. I worked with Photoshop, InDesign, and dabbled in Illustrator. Although, after reading Massimo Vignelli’s “The Vignelli Canon”, my eyes lit up to everything that I did not know about design and tips I wish I knew about in high school.
While reading the section about semantics, I was familiar with the term, but not in a design sense. With that being said, Vignelli defines semantics, in design, as “to design something that has a meaning, that is not arbitrary…something in which every detail carries the meaning or has a precise purpose aimed at a precise target” (Vignelli, 10). After reading that statement, I pondered to think about all my designs in high school and wondered if I just made them because I was assigned to, or if I really put any meaning behind them. His words and thoughts towards semantics made me realize that design is meaningless without any motive from the creator to send a clear message to their audience. Also, an effective design comes from a well-thought-out place on the creator’s end and it has to be as meaningful for the creator as it is for the audience.
“Whatever we do, if not understood, fails to communicate and is wasted effort.” -Massimo Vignelli
The section discussing pragmatics stood out to me because Vignelli tells it as it is. The word “clarity” kept repeating itself not only in the section, but through my mind because if your intent for the design is not clear in your head then it will not be clear in the head of your audience. If your intent does not make itself clear enough in the first stages of your design then it will not be clear in the final product, and that is where a designer will fail when understanding pragmatics. I believe that throughout this section, Vignelli was making it clear enough to readers that clarity of design and pragmatics need to be a constant focus when creating art.
Another section that I enjoyed was ambiguity. I am familiar with what ambiguity is and the positives and negatives of it, although, after reading Vignelli’s applications to what ambiguity can do to design, I thought that in itself was left ambiguous. Vignelli points out that the use of ambiguity can bring in contradiction which can also make or break the design. The use of bad contradiction in design can be “a sign of discontinuity and lack of control” (Vignelli, 20). With that being said, he also brings up that ambiguity can do that as well, and when used together, ambiguity and contradiction could ruin a design. Although, if used correctly and carefully, the two forces can enhance the design. Overall, I enjoyed this section and the mention of how ambiguity in design can touch many people in a variety of ways and may not be understood the same way each time it is viewed.
The portion on what timelessness looks like in design reminded me of fast food ads, magazine layouts, and airline logos. All parts of media that we look towards and recognize what they are even if they were to appear with just their staple colors. For example, the fast-food chain, McDonalds, has been using their primary colors, red and yellow, and the “golden arches” to stand out among their competitors for decades. What makes companies like McDonalds stand out is their timelessness “use of primary shapes and primary colors” (Vignelli, 28). Additionally, Vignelli’s discussion about what makes a design stand the test of time is the utilization of all the design elements that make a strong design which is typography, pragmatics, syntax, and semantics. With that being said, without those segments, a design would fail and be ultimately forgotten.
All in all, I enjoyed reading Vignelli’s booklet about design that displayed different examples of design concepts in maps, magazines, and everyday objects. Also, I appreciated the way he explained each concept in a way that any newbie or experienced designer could understand. Overall, I can not wait to take the topics discussed in Vignelli’s book and apply them to my own designs.