An Inspiring Week with a Design Icon

Dec 05, 2012 // Frank

This past summer, Sasges designer Chandra Vermeulen attended a weeklong workshop at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies in Rochester, NY. As one of only nine participants, Chandra was able to work side by side with design icon Massimo Vignelli.

Chandra Writes:

This workshop reignited my passion for design. It allowed me to look more deeply into the purpose and power of design and how it can provide clarity, communicate a message and make a user experience more relevant and immediate.

It was also a great reminder that “less is more.” There is nothing more essential to design than eliminating what is unnecessary or what is clouding the real message. Though we learned these principles in school, you never really understand them until you begin to design for actual clients on projects that truly need that clarity.

A workshop like this is an experience and exercise where you can really zero in on those principles without any distractions. It was an amazing way to reconnect with design and be around others who shared that passion. Every moment was an opportunity to discuss effective design – and learn from the master.

Massimo Vignelli is a key figure in design modernism. He is as well known as the brands helped create – Knoll, Heller, Bloomingdale’s, American Airlines – and, of course, the famous New York City transit city map. What ties all of his work together is his focus on simple, rational and utilitarian design, which was what our workshop was about.

The workshop was “hands on,” with lots of opportunities for one-on-one interaction. Massimo’s enthusiasm was obvious, his feedback was fantastic, and he’d sit with you while you made your changes, so he could watch the design come together.

It was an incredible experience that began with a briefing from our “client,” the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and ended with each of us presenting the branding materials we had created. Massimo was passionate about the success of each participant’s project, and we often worked into the wee hours. I didn’t want to miss a word, so as long as he was there, I was there.

Our last encounter is something I’ll never forget. Our group had gathered at an instructor’s home to play shuffleboard in a basement full of 70s black-light posters. As I hugged Massimo goodbye, I was struck by the fact that my mentor had green hair and teeth – Massimo Green Pantone 354C – a mental picture will stay with me. There were so many other memorable moments and quirky quotes that now, whenever I’m designing, I imagine what Massimo would say.

To get a feel for the Vignelli design language and creative approach, visit


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