Vignelli was born in Milan in 1931. In 1966 he moved to New York and founded Unimark International, later leaving to set up Vignelli Associates with wife Lella.
He worked on projects including the American Airlines identity and signage for the New York City Subway system.
Vignelli received a number of awards throughout his career, including the AIGA Gold Medal and the National Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design.
Earlier this month Vignelli’s family announced that he was gravely ill and was spending his last days at home.
As reported in Creative Review, his son Luca asked for all those for whom Vignelli was either an influence or an inspiration to write him a letter.
According to Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, ‘Luca said that Massimo would be thrilled to get notes of good wishes from people whom he’s touched or influenced – whether personally or remotely – over the years. Luca has visions of huge mail bags full of letters. I know that one of Massimo’s biggest fantasies has been to attend his own funeral. This will be the next best thing.’
Bierut, who started his career at Vignelli Associates, writes on Design Observer, ‘From Massimo I learned never to give up. He was able to bring enthusiasm, joy and intensity to the smallest design challenge. Even after 50 years, he could delight in designing something like a business card as if he had never done one before.
‘It was Massimo who taught me one of the simplest things in the world: that if you do good work, you get more good work to do, and conversely bad work brings more bad work. It sounds simple, but it’s remarkable, in a lifetime of pragmatics and compromises, how easy it is to forget: the only way to do good work is simply to do good work. Massimo did good work.’