"MINIMO," HIS MOTHER should have named him, because the work of designer Massimo Vignelli and his wife / partner, Lella, epitomizes the minimalist approach to design. From the Bloomingdale's shopping bag to the New York subway map, their work looks clean, crisp and free of clutter. Their American Airlines logo, for instance--one run-on word in plain type, half red and half blue--effectively conveys the image of a no-nonsense carrier dedicated to the business traveler. Their grid (the master format for the layout of each page) for magazines such as Architectural Record is easy on the eye, with plenty of white space around each photograph and text block.
In the Vignellis' vocabulary, understatement is not a synonym for dull. Indeed, their fondness for bold colors, exaggerated scale and contrasts of materials adds a playful feeling to works such as their stunning Serenissimo dining table, below. There's something satisfying about the table's interplay of forms; a thin, brittle, hard-edge sheet of plate glass rests atop four chunky, round columns. The materials' textures also play off one another--slick, cold glass versus the legs' Venetian stucco, which evokes the patina of stonework in an old palazzo .
Venetian stucco--a rich, layered-looking finish--uses a very fine sand plaster mixed with lime, which burns the color as it dries. The mixture is hand-troweled for the deliberately uneven surface of traditional Italian furniture. The seven available colors of the table's legs are derived from the palette of a painting by the 17th-Century Venetian artist Francesco Guardi.