Massimo Vignelli Speeches...

SuperUltraFabulous's picture


Is there anywhere on the interwebs where I can find a transcript of the famous/infamous Massimo Vignelli speech- you only need a few typefaces, the rest are trash?

I can find the quote but that's it.

In fact, are there transcripts of ANY of his speeches anywhere?

Thank you,

Mike Diaz :-)

hrant's picture

Yes, it would be great to have a firm target to ridicule.


nicolacaleffi's picture

Massimo Vignelli: We Use Way Too Many Fonts

The Vignelli Canon

quadibloc's picture

Reading the transcript of his speech, I think he is both right and wrong at the same time.

Do we "really need" more text (and "moderate" display) fonts than

Times Roman
Century Expanded
Cloister Lightface
News Gothic
Franklin Gothic
Copperplate Gothic

But when it comes to display typography, faces like Dynamo, Stop, Bank Gothic, Cheltenham, and even Papyrus have their place... along with thousands of others.

EDIT: While I added in Bodoni before seeing "The Vignelli Canon", I see I forgot Futura. But I would also add Kabel to the list, dated though it may be.

Albert Jan Pool's picture

Bodoni: which one?
Caslon: which one?
Bembo and Poliphilus: I could live without them, today there are much better revivals available.
Garamond: Which one? Stempel / Berthold / Adobe are okay, but the Jeannon based revivals (ATF, Monotype Garamond, Linotype Garamond No.3, ITC Garamond) should at least be renamed …
I wonder about Sabon not being on the list. Usually turns up in lists like these, ignoring the fact that the duplex-matrice proportions were not restored until the release of Sabon Next.
Copperplate Gothic: Shure? Why?
News Gothic / Franklin Gothic: One of these should do!
Univers: but no Frutiger? Serious?

Té Rowan's picture

Which one? Which one do you trust to do what you want it to do?

hrant's picture

The thing is, John, your list already has at least 13 more faces that Vignelli agrees to... Plus what Albert Jan said.

Vignelli isn't just wrong, he's essentially deeply disrespectful towards our craft. And I once told him so on the ATypI discussion list.


Té Rowan's picture

In full seriousness, how many text faces does a bloke need?

Albert Jan Pool's picture

Which one? Which one do you trust to do what you want it to do?

Exactly, although written with good intentions, well meant lists such as the Vignelli Canon are to be read in the perspective in the time they were written. Still Caslon is probably Monotype Caslon or Linotype Caslon, although at that time, Berthold Caslon was superior to them. Still Bodoni is probably Linotype or Monotype Bodoni, although they did not resemble Bodoni’s typefaces because the drawing room people (including those at Berthold) were taught that Bodoni had to have a look that was ‘as cold as the Alps’ (citing Updike) and that therefore(?) the curves had to be drawn with lines and arcs. Bauer’s foundry type was better but at the time Massimo Vinell wrote his list, there was no supplier of photocomposition machines that had a decent version (i.e. suitable for small sizes) of Bodoni in its typeface catalogue. Monotype Bembo suffers from weak details (such as the curves in the diagonals of the K that were merely an invention of the drawing room) and the photocomposition and digital versions never managed to capture the lower contrasts of the smaller sizes needed for offset printing of text matter. Also check Tim Ahrens on optical scaling for what happened after that.

Summing up all this, combined with the good and serious work that has been done on text faces in the last 25 years (at the aforementioned foundries as well as many new ones), these lists have become nothing more than ‘name dropping’. Ignoring that development is indeed a bit disrespectful and above all, it unveals that some modernists have difficulties to cope with the better part of the outcome of the progress they were after.

hrant's picture

how many text faces does a bloke need?

How complex is the human subconscious?

A big part of text fonts is about emotion, just like with display fonts, but on a different -deeper- level. The smallest flick in somebody's lips reveals a subtle emotion. You can't put your finger on what the flick looks like, but you can feel it. And people who can design for such feelings are qualified to make text fonts.


brianskywalker's picture

In practice, I only use a few. And I think most do. But I'd rather each person use their own few than every one using the same few.

I think I use Lucida, Georgia, Helvetica, and Times the most daily, along with a large variety of Webfonts, of which I have some favorites. But this has to do with the fact that I do web development, and these are defaults that "just work". If, for instance, somehow Franklin Gothic had been "chosen" for the default instead of Helvetica, we would all use Franklin and not know the difference.

Té Rowan's picture

Pretty much my gut feeling. I have accumulated a rather large fanfic library on the Linux box that I usually read on the Windows machine over the bedroom network. I found I use mostly my PT Serif hack, URW Palladio (for Potter fics) and Baskervald ADF (for Buffy fics). Oh, and my Ubuntu hack for my link pages. Works for me, for now.

I see myself strictly as a font user, even though I tend to make a few simple mods and additions to what I use; personalise them, as it were.

Nick Shinn's picture

Are we still stuck on this? The issue has progressed—a long time ago, in fact, the big debate occurring over 20 years ago, much of it in the pages of Emigre magazine, suitably designed by Rudy Vanderlans.
Or has Modernism outlasted Postmodernism?*
At any rate, Mr Keedy, for one, addressed the subject in Emigre in 1990:

*I don’t think so. Modernism today is retro.
A taste for the Vignelli style is nostalgia.

hrant's picture

The succubus of over-simplification will be with us eternally.


quadibloc's picture

I agree that it is "deeply disrespectful" to the craft of type design to suggest that no more typefaces are needed, ant type designers should just give up. However, even so, it is also true that, for the most part, typographers will achieve better results by sticking to the basics.

John Hudson's picture

I've never felt disrespected by Massimo.

William Berkson's picture

You only need a few typefaces, the ones Vignelli cites, if you want to design exactly like Vignelli. Everyone could also dress like him.

It's a big world, and there are other tastes, other ideas and other challenges.

Té Rowan's picture

Nick Shinn – Pfft. It's going away the way Beatles v Stones v Elvis is going away: Not for the remainder of forever. People're gunna have their staple faces and fonts, and argue till they're blue with pink polka dots that exactly their choice is The Best Choice.

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