Becoming an Adultier Adult
Canons are for Pirates… and Design?
Canons are for Pirates… and Design?

Canons are for Pirates… and Design?

I recently read “The Vignelli Cannon” by Massimo Vignelli (full PDF is provided at the end of this post). Vignelli was an influential designer who co-founded Vignelli Associates with his wife, Lella Vignelli. In the Introduction of this book, he states, “Creativity needs the support of knowledge to be able to perform at its best.” He explains that doesn’t want this to be a rule book. I believe he genuinely wanted to help future designers by passing on the knowledge that he had acquired and that had worked for him. My thoughts on this reading can be summed up by the following quotation from Vignelli’s book itself.

“We design things which we think are semantically correct and syntactically consistent but if, at the point of fruition, no one understands the result, or the meaning of all that effort, the entire work is useless.”

Seriously, this was so hard for me to read that it proved its own point, which is a credit to Vignelli. There is no doubt in my mind that his ideas are correct and that they have helped and inspired countless designers who have come after him. Unfortunately, it is proving very difficult for this non-designer to grasp the concepts he’s discussing. Maybe it’s the online format, the lack of sleep, or my limited vocabulary. Something about this reading was just not working for me. However, I will point out a few concepts that stuck out to me and that I was able to easily comprehend.

“Clarity of intent will translate in to clarity of result and that is of paramount importance in Design. Confused, complicated designs reveal an equally confused and complicated mind.”

This concept resonated with me because I’ve come across it in my life. My children, as wonderful as they are, do not want to take the time to plan and organize their ideas before writing. When they are assigned an essay in school, I always stress the importance of taking the time to do an outline. I tell them, “You have to know where your essay is going to go before you start writing. Otherwise, there is no structure and the reader will be able to tell.” Do my children listen? Well, sometimes they do, but usually they try to get by with skipping straight to the writing. Generally, I’ll catch the paper before it’s turned in so that I can proofread it. When I read their rambling, disorganized paragraphs, I immediately ask to see their nonexistent outline.

Appropriateness transcends any issue of style – there are many ways of solving a problem, many ways of doing, but the relevant thing is that, no matter what, the solution must be appropriate.”

The above quotation is another from Vignelli’s book that applies to something I’m dealing with in my professional life. I am a part of a working group that has been tasked with identifying and mitigating a specific problem. One of the issues we’ve discussed is how to have our mitigations implemented across the organization. My teammates have suggested a wide range of potential solutions — everything from send out a notice to make all employees aware, to mandatory annual training, to disciplinary actions. While all of these are potential solutions, it all comes down to appropriateness of the solution. and will be a challenge to find the appropriate and effective choice.

Because I was able to relate the above ideas to my personal life, I feel that I will be able to apply them in my design assignments for my Digital Storytelling class. For example, I realize that it’s important to plan and be able to articulate my intentions so that my design will be more effective and user-friendly. Additionally, I can appreciate the importance of considering the audience, the client, how/when they will encounter my design, etc.) to make sure that my design is appropriate for the context.


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