Vignelli Canon Reflection: A Subtle Diss on the American Imperial System

I thought that the Vignelli Canon was extremely interesting. I’ll start by saying this: my mom’s family is Italian and so is my boyfriend (he is a first generation American, woohoo!). So, I might be biased, but my initial reaction was that I am not surprised that an Italian man is a well known graphic designer. After all, Italy did give us Armani, Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, etc.

The second thing I noticed was that Vignelli really seemed to hate the American standard for paper sizes. He continuously calls them ugly and wasteful. For some reason, I just thought this was absolutely hilarious (probably because I can picture my relatives voicing similar complaints about the Imperial System and how dumb it is compared to the metric system).

I also noticed a fair amount of crossover between graphic design and some of my sociology courses, which I certainly did not expect. Last semester I took sociology of popular culture and learned about the cultural diamond (including the producer and the receiver). Vignelli describes something similar with his definition of Semantics. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the subject’s relationship to the the sender and the receiver, which are two sides of the cultural diamond.

Vignelli’s work also made me consider design’s relationship to popular culture when he mentions logos. I thought it was really interesting how some companies want to change their logo after decades of using it, and Vignelli notes how that is counter productive and irresponsible.

Finally I will say I learned a lot about fonts and typography, which was interesting, considering Vignelli seemed to have strong opinions on this matter as well. I never realized (or probably cared enough to educate myself, if I am being honest) that there are so many different fonts and according to Vignelli the vast majority of them are useless “visual pollutants”. I will say though, he provides a pretty compelling argument, as the six fonts he lists on p. 56 are pretty attractive. This might be niche but Bodoni looks like it should be the font for an Italian menu… and it sounds like a pasta dish!

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