Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Massimo Vignelli

“The list is almost ridiculous—the more I think, the more books come to mind. Books that have been useful but not fundamental, books that have somehow shaped my mind, enriched my experience, affected my designs.”

By Steve Kroeter June 2, 2014
Massimo Vignelli (1931–2014), Graphic designer: Vignelli Associates (New York)
View Massimo Vignelli’s Book List

Much has already been written about the many design contributions and lasting influence as well as the kindness and generosity of Massimo Vignelli, who passed away last week. Both Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand, among others, have movingly detailed the role Massimo played early in their graphic design careers.

Massimo also kindly took a chance on Designers & Books when it was only an idea. When we first decided to launch the site, he was one of the first designers we approached—we didn’t know him personally—for a list of the books that had inspired him. And he was among the first to agree to participate, something he did with great care and enthusiasm.

We sent a query about when we might expect to receive his book list. His assistant, Daisy, replied with this note:

Massimo is working on it and putting considerable thought to the project. It is very difficult for him to narrow it down... he has quite an extensive library with a wide range of topics that have influenced his career. Like everything he does, he is approaching the task with great attention to detail. I will let you know his progress, unless he contacts you directly. Thank you.

Later we heard from Massimo directly:

Mr. Kroeter,

I find your request extremely difficult for me. Out of thousand of books which have enriched my life and knowledge, I cannot single few ones without omitting so many others who have shaped my mind in the course of my life.

Naturally architecture and design books have been the major influences, but art history, philosophy, literature, ethnology, music, particularly on the theoretic and critical side of every discipline, have been my favorite reading.

It will take an enormous amount of time to list every book that has left a mark on my formation. I will just list some of the names that comes to my mind:

G.C. Argan, S. Giedion, L. Mumford, Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, W. Gropius, G. Kepes, Moholy Nagy, Zevi, M. Pagano, E. Persico, E. Rogers, P. Rand, Plato, G. Lukacs, M. Mila, J.G. Frazer, H. Balzac, Maupassant, L. Tolstoi, F. Dostoevsky, Checov, T. Mann, W. Goethe, A. Moravia, C. Pavese, I. Calvino, U. Eco, V. Nabokov,T.Farrel, T.Dreiser, E.Hemingway, and so many others including Mozart, Beethoven and Bach!

The list is almost ridiculous, the more I think the more books come to mind, books that have been useful but not fundamental, books that have somehow shaped my mind, enriched my experience, affected my designs.

I am curious to see how my friends on your list, have answered the question.

Please let me know if you have any suggestion for me.

Best regards,

Massimo Vignelli

The next day we received his book list, with this note:

Dear Mr. Kroeter,

I am sending you a list of books, but really I feel guilty to leave out all those who have really enriched my life.

Anyhow here is a list. Let me know.

All the best,
Massimo Vignelli

The list—the first we published, in February 2011—contains 32 books.

View Massimo Vignelli’s Book List

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