Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video Massimo Vignelli, part of Helvetica.
When I was 16 years old, I was lucky enough to go to work as a freelance draftsmen in the office of the Castiglioni brothers. Now the Castiglioni were designing everything really. Radios and furnitures and exhibitions and buildings and houses and you know, all kind of things. And I was mesmerized by the fact that an architect can do everything, and then eventually I discovered that an architect is supposed to really design everything from a spoon to a city, as they say.
Then I was a support to some posters by Max Huber. Max Huber is a fantastic graphic designer from Switzerland that came to Milano and I eventually met him and I learn a lot from him. I learn about grays, I learn about colors, I learn type, I learn about approach. And that's how I got as poor as two graphic design bbb. sss That's a controversial thing.
It's funny, but I realized the other day, it was mistaken me. So, this is the most clear kind of map I have ever seen, you know, in terms of information for the subways. Very simple. Every line has a color. Every subway line has a color, in reality they already have it. And every station has a dot, you know. Every stop is a dot. No stop, no dot, no stop. You know, so it's, couldn't be easier than that. There is nothing to fragment the legibility of this while instead if you look at today's map it's a total disaster.
With the fragmentation all over the place, and I can show it to you, one day. And this is what we've tried to find. Now, back 75 ago in London, I did the first map with the 90 and 45 degrees grain, you know, like this one here. And and it's been working fine in London for all this time. But, New York is a different kind of a city. And now I just realized that maybe, maybe I possible that I made a mistake by indicating somehow even in the, even in the, you know, the form way.
The areas in Manhattan, Queens, and you know, the Bronx. I probably should have done what I've done in London, not to have an indication of the geography. So do a complete blank, like a beige background or a white background so that there is no no suggestion of geography, whatsoever. One of the problem they had in New York is the people, they couldn't relate the geography with the station, with the lines. And they were confused by that.
But just because they shouldn't. They were a geographical map, there are neighboring map in the subway, you know. So really there is no reason why. This geography has to be literal, you know. It could be completely abstract. But I think it would have been even better if I push the envelope even further, and not to have anything, and just gave you the lines. Lines and stops. Maybe that point would have been better. Otherwise this is perfect. I think this is one of the most beautiful spaghetti work ever done lll Is a terrific game, terrific, boy.
And it's so clear it's unbelievable. Now the fact, the reality is that 50% of the humanities are visually-oriented and 50% of the humanities verbally oriented. So the visually-oriented people have no problem reading any kind of map maps, and clearly, you know, road maps, and the verbal people, you know, they can never read the map, just because of their dichotomy between one and the other. But the verbal people have one great advantage over the visual people. They can be heard, and that's why they started to complain to these people opening their mouths you know, in vain.
Until the beautiful map was substituted by the junky one that you can see by going in every subway station. It is a map that, it is loaded with information, which makes it so difficult to retrieve, that it makes the whole point of the map equally useless. So, if I made a mistake here, was not making the geography abstract. Making the water vision, the pipe ways green. Was just a fact of indicating those things, when I shouldn't have done.
I should have done just blank, it would have been better. bbb I've always been of the opinion that all post-modernist was just a fad, and that, and then just give live, let it alone, give the time to fade out and it will. And as a matter of fact they did, when instead modernist, which is never a friend. You know, was a philosophy, was an attitude, it was really based on logic rather than emotions.
Kept going on, and what you see today after the terrible things that been built during the post-modernist time, those funky buildings that I've been doing. You know, now you see terrific modern buildings, buildings which really go back to the great tradition of modern architecture. You know, and develop and modernize it, even Frangeti, I mean you cannot call him post-modernist, I mean to a certain extent, but the, there is plenty of great architects today that people working in, along the modernist structure.
Modernist, I, philosophy. And and now what is interesting to see is that a lot of the young generation is coming out. That, that, that is coming out in graphic design, and design in general, are again modernist, and they like Helvetica. They use it with great sense of space and little type, sometime they exaggerate, but that's okay. I rather see that, than those horrible concoction put together by the flower children.
>> Great lll. >> Got it. I manage, I manage to get it out lll. >> Damn those hippies. >> Well yeah damn hippies, good for nothing. I'm glad that you're doing it iii. I think that this should really come out, loud and clear, that if there is a carrier of logic, it's been really that type, you know, in a sense of. If there has been a, a, a carrier of clarity, a carrier of reason and it's been really that typeface.
You know, not certainly we find a typeface that we have seen in the 70s. So I'm really, I'm really glad it exists. Oh, my God, you don't want to hear that thing lll. God, that certainly was a, a bad moment, God, you know, a wasted generation. Yeah, wasted, completely wasted, you know? Unbelievable. I'm glad that you were born after that. lll You know, it's amazing, there was no, nothing, really.
They were becoming bums. The whole idea was that if you were with it, you were not cool. You were a bum. You know, so, you just lie on the sidewalk, you know, there and, you know, all that kind of thing. All the kinds of things that were against anything that makes sense. So if it makes sense, you got to do the opposite, lll you know? That was basically. You know, it was told me the other night with a guy that was doing a magazine called Punk and he said a thing that was absolutely correct.
He said we were not for anything, we were against anything. And, and this exactly does, it sums up the entire generation, you know, of that time. I mean, I understand it was trouble times, there was a war iii just like today, to a certain extent, you know? But time was the first time where America was doing something completely wrong. Now we're getting used to it. lll There's a big difference.
lll I guess that that's the thing. So that's why the, the, the protest is much more mild today than it used to be in the 69 and 70, you know. >> Yeah. >> With the Vietnam War. And it's amazing. bbb You know, it's, you really wonder how long it's going to take before people who really go down in the square and the streets and say enough is enough, go home, you know.
>> Yeah, yeah. >> I mean go back to Texas where you belong. You know, is a, I mean is a, how long are they going to wait? I don't know. I'm ready lll you know, to go when I'm going. In square and plazas, you know any place, Central Park, any place, you know where millions can congregate and say enough is enough.
The documentary explores urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and offers a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type. Helvetica encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication, and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day. Interviewees in Helvetica include some of the most illustrious and innovative names in the design world, including Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Neville Brody, Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Bierut, David Carson, Paula Scher, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Experimental Jetset, Michael C. Place, Norm, Alfred Hoffmann, Mike Parker, Bruno Steinert, Otmar Hoefer, Leslie Savan, Rick Poynor, Lars Müller, and many more.
Make sure to watch the bonus features included in the Extras chapter for more insights from these designers.