vignelli canon

Crave that prominent-grid, basic-fonts, industrial design aesthetic? Massamo Vignelli  would tell you that you can’t just imitate the surface, which must emerge as an epiphenomenon from an essential spirit embuing the design at its most fundamental level. He has put a document called The Vignelli Canon on the web as a pdf. It’s worth consulting. A few excerpts:

The attention to details requires discipline. There is no room for sloppiness, for carelessness, for procrastination. Every detail is important because the end result is the sum of all the details involved in the creative process no matter what we are doing…. Design without discipline is anarchy, an exercise of irresponsibility.

Very often people think that Design is a particular style. Nothing could be more wrong! Design is a discipline, a creative process with its own rules, controlling the consistency of its output toward its objective in the most direct and expressive way.

Visual strength is an expression of intellectual elegance and should never be confused with just visual impact – which, most of the time, is just an expression of visual vulgarity and obtrusiveness.

The smaller the module of the grid the least helpful it could be. We could say that an empty page is a page with an infinitesimal small grid. Therefore, it is equivalent to not being there. Conversely a page with a coarse grid is a very restricting grid offering too few alternatives. The secret is to find the proper kind of grid for the job at hand.

The advent of the computer generated the phenomena called desktop publishing. This enabled anyone who could type the freedom of using any available typeface and do any kind of distortion. It was a disaster of mega proportions. A cultural pollution of incomparable dimension.

Our first rule is to stick to one or two type sizes at the most.
If necessary, there are other devices such as bold, light, roman and italic to differentiate different parts of a text, but even there, stick to the minimum. Type weights can be used to great advantage when dedicated to a specific function, rather than be used for color purposes or even worse as a phonetic analogy.

Too much diversity creates fragmentation – a very common disease of badly designed communication. Too much identity generates perceptive redundancy and lack of retention.