Entries in Graphic Design (7)


We Covet: Massimo Vignelli

[Tracey Shumate's self portrait with the Massimo Vignelli designed Stendig calendar from Issue 6]

Designer Massimo Vignelli (1931 to 2014) was a man for the masses. Primarily a graphic designer, he made modernity functional. And he extended this idea of making everyday things beautiful to kitchenware, signage, book covers and home interiors. His best-known creation—the signage for the New York City subway—has been in use since 1966. But our adoration is more than Eames-era nostalgia: Vignelli's take on modernist principles still feels new today.

Vignelli was born in Italy. He studied art and architecture in Milan and Venice. He was an admirer of the modernist work of architects Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. In Italy he made a splash with his clean, colourful designs for glassmakers Venini.

Vignelli moved to Chicago in the 1960s, attracted by the opportunity to take his ideas to a larger audience. He joined ad agency Unimark, at the time, one of the world’s largest design firms. In Chicago, he worked on designing corporate identities for clients such as American Airlines, Ford, IBM, Xerox, Knoll and Gillette.

[Vignelli's work for Knoll seen in Knoll: A Modernist Universe]

Although he had an unerring sense of wit and beauty, he saw himself as a problem solver, not an artist. “We have to make a distinction between design and art,” said Vignelli in an interview in Print magazine in 1991. “If you are an artist, you can do anything you want. Design serves a different purpose. If in the process of solving a problem you create a problem, obviously, you did not design.”

At this time he also branched out into industrial design, most famously for the crayon-coloured plastic dinnerware sets for the furniture company Heller in 1964.

[Heller Dinnerware set in White]

In 1971, he and his wife Lella left Unimark to start their own design firm. Their work had a sense of permanence as well as playfulness. Case in point: Bloomingdales’ iconic Big Brown Bag. “You can reach timelessness if you look for the essence of things and not the appearance,” Vignelli once said. The appearance is transitory—the appearance is fashion, the appearance is trendiness—but the essence is timeless.”

[Vignelli's Max 365 perpetual calendar]

The couple felt that permanance was important to sucessful design. Which explains why Vignelli’s work never went out of fashion. And Lella still runs the companycarrying the torch for the firm's principles, a.k.a the “The Five Vignelli-isms:”


Tea Sets

Hope you like our special secon anniversary issue of Covet Garden. John and Stephanie's homes were so much fun to shoot. It was also inspirational — I have always been a fan of package design and my passion was re-kindled after our visit to John's place.

My newly awakened eye spotted these beautiful boxes from Clipper Teas while out last weekend. The package design is by a UK-based company called Big Fish. I love the hand-lettered typography and the simple but striking illustrations.

[above images: Clipper Teas]

[images: Karel Capek]


I also love retro kid's book illustration. Which is why I love these vintage-look collectable tins from the Karel Capek tea shop in Japan. Designed by illustrator Utako Yamada, these adorable containers would be so great to use for storage after your special tisane is all gone!

[image: Løv Organic]

John himself is a fan of the tea. I spotted a tin of this loveliness nestled amongst all his fabulous vintage tins. Don't be fooled by their Scandinavian name, Løv Organic is a French company dedicated to quality, ecology and design. http://en.lov-organic.com/


Swing Set: Hot Weather Hammocks

[Tayrona hammock, Anthropologie]

It's the weekend, and while we don't have access to a cottage we can still dream of outdoor living. Or, more specifically, outdoor relaxing in a hammock. We're dreaming of creating a perfect urban oasis for next summer and having a hammock is a big part of the plan. Here are a few of our favourites:

[Chocolate Hammock from Veronica Colindres' Etsy shop]

Our dream hammock involves a bit of fancy fringe. This way we can dream that we are lounging in an exotic, far away land. We also like hammocks that are made in faraway lands, such as this handwoven cotton hammock from the Colindres' family in Nicaraugua.

[Vivere hammock stand]

When planning an urban retreat, one must take a lack of trees into consideration. We like the graceful shape of this cedar hammock stand by Canadian company Vivere.

[double hammock from Hamanica]

If we can't have fringe, we're also good with lace trim. This beige cotton hammock is available as a single or a double and is handmade by a collective of craftspeople in the city of Masaya, Nicaragua.

[Hammocks at the Flederhaus via archdaily.com]

We're not the only ones who like a nice en plien air nap. Last summer, architects Heri and Salli created an installation called Flederhaus (Bathouse) in Vienna. This five story structure was filled with hammocks in which passerby were invited to have a little rest. I wonder if we could get a permit to build this in Trinity Bellwoods park?


Super Bass

[Henri's Walk to Paris]

We love the look of children's books. This is not a shocking admission: in the past two issues of Covet Garden, both Holly and Iza revealed that a lot of their design inspiration comes from kid's book illustration. Heck, Cybèle from Issue 17 has written and illustrated award winning children's books. Still we surprise ourselves when we come across an exciting new kid lit discovery.

Or rediscovery. While visiting Type Books on the weekend, we found the Saul Bass illustrated 1962 book Henri's Walk to Paris. We're long time fans of Bass' startlingly original movie posters and ads, so we're a little embarrassed to admit that we didn't know about Henri's Walk before.

Reissued last February, the book was a collaboration between Bass and ex-librarian Leonore Klein. It is a charming story about a country boy named Henri, who dreams of visiting the big city. The artwork is spare and minimalist yet still very magical.

[Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design]

Once we finished our travels with Henri, we couldn't get enough of Bass' bold, graphic designs. Fortunately there's a book for that as well. Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design also tells a terrific tale through words and pictures. From his early days in advertising (we also had no idea that he had a hand in creating iconic logos for organizations as diverse as Quaker Oats and AT&T) to his most defining work designing title sequences and designing posters for the movies, the book follows Bass' career from the 1940s until his death in 1996.


Bass once said that his goal for creating title sequences was to "try to reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story." We think this pretty much applies to all his work. Which is why we hope that we never stop discovering new things about Saul Bass.


Jenn Hannotte on Local Talent Stefan Page

[Halina pillow for CB2]

Keeping things playful and irreverent is key to my design aesthetic. Introducing the unexpected always makes a room come alive, and one of the least anxiety-inducing methods is through surface design and art. Surface and pattern design is the passion of Toronto illustrator Stefan Page, who has designed for CB2, Umbra, Joe Fresh and many others. Through abstraction he creates playful, dream-like worlds that can add a tonne of fun and personality to any space. It's also cool to know that some of the amazing patterns we see in big retailers were crafted and inspired right here at home.

[Sasha rug for CB2]

[Wooden Horse illustration]

[sandals for Sandalista!]

This maple leaf pillow was created specifically for the opening of CB2 in Canada, and Stefan describes it as a blend of his personal love and understanding of Polish Folk Art with the iconic shape of the Maple Leaf that represents the home (Canada) that his family found during WW2. How truly Canadian is that!?

We're pleased to feature another intriguing post from interior stylist Jenn Hannotte of Russet and Empire Interiors back to the Covet Garden blog. Her work has been featured in Design Lines Remodelista, Apartment Therapy and the Marion House Book to name a few.