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American Airlines double-A logo, Bloomingdale’s packaging, or the signage system for New York City subway, are probably very familiar branding images. They were designed by the multidisciplinary New York City studio of Lella and Massimo Vignelli. They produced some of the most powerful visual expressions of our age, from graphics to jewelry to furniture.

Lella and Massimo Vignelli have worked together as a strong team combining their skills from 1960 until their deaths in 2014 and 2016. Lella Vignelli brought a three-dimensional imagination to her husband’s graphic-design sensibility.

“We sort of break the idea together,” Ms. Vignelli said in an interview at the Parsons School of Design in 1981. “Then, generally, if it’s graphic, it’s in his field, and if it’s three-dimensional, it’s my field, but we always cross over.”

Bed composed by four brass cylinders for Poltronova 1971, Lella Vignelli.

Born Elena Valle in 1934, in Udine, in the Friuli region of Italy, Lella was her childhood nickname. She enrolled at the University of Venice School of Architecture and was accepted as a special student at M.I.T.’s architecture school.

After working as a junior interior designer for the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago, Lella Vignelli returned to Italy, where she and her husband opened an architecture and design office in Milan, working with Pirelli, Olivetti and several publishers.

Lella and Massimo Vignelli founded Vignelli Associates, with offices in New York, Paris and Milan. Three years later, Lella Vignelli was nominated chief executive of Vignelli Designs, a firm dedicated to furniture, objects, exhibitions and interiors.

“Serenissimo” table by Lella Vignelli, David Law, Massimo Vignelli, Acerbis, 1985.

“If you do it right, it will last forever, it’s as simple as that.” Ms. Vignelli told New York magazine in 2007. Lella Vignelli had a special feel for silver, reflected in two objects she designed for the Italian silversmith San Lorenzo — a ribbed teapot and a necklace called “Senza Fine”.

“All of this work bears the mark of clarity and simplicity,” Mr. Vignelli wrote in the introduction to his book “Designed by: Lella Vignelli” (2013). “Lella’s work is solid, timeless, responsible and — in its essence — extremely elegant.”

The architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote in The New York Times: “The best of the Vignelli designs manage to bring together visual pleasure and ease of use, relate to the history of design yet give us the sense that we are seeing something beautiful made in a way we have never seen it before.”

Liturgical objects for Saint Peter's Church designed by Lella Vignelli and Massimo Vignelli in 1977.
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Lella Vignelli

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