This Canon?

I’m going to admit that I was a bit upset that there was no canon in the Vignelli Canon.  So I made my own to fill the void.

Vignelli Canon Joke


I was a bit familiar with the concept of Design before reading, but I had little to no detail of the factors on which good Design is based.  I was more-or-less limited to the idea of “that looks good” and “that doesn’t look good”.  So, this information was extremely useful. I’d always wondered how my mother could spend so many hours reading about design, and not just spending that time designing. However, I digress.  Vignelli helped me to compare and contrast the differences between art and design, design being a sub-field of art as whole, which, admittedly, is rather obvious at face value. But, the distinctions about how design and art can play off of each other, specifically the knowledge regarding the layout grid and how it can make or break the presentation of artwork, really had a big impact on me.

I knew that spacing between ideas was simply good formatting, but hadn’t realized how particular layouts could better suited to different mediums in as much detail as Vignelli describes.  Vignelli particularly notes his personal preference in favor of “narrow margins to increase the tension”–an idea that never really crossed my mind, but I was subject to regularly. As a relatable example, do you start your doodles by drawing from the outer edge? the center of the page? in the header?  It would seem that these simple, sometimes absentminded choices reflect your personal style of design.

In his section dedicated to grids, he seems extremely particular (he’s the Master, though, so there must be some justification).  This is evidenced by his line “There are infinite kinds of grids, but just one – the most appropriate – for any problem”, which helps to support his idea that designers must “listen to what a thing wants to be, rather than contrive it in an arbitrary confinement”, which, in turn supports his definition of semantics as “understand(ing) the subject in all its aspects”.

I learned a great deal about conciseness in Vignelli’s Canon, which seemed to be a theme throughout.

His section on colors seemed frankly a bit short, though.  Maybe it’s because he grew up in a time when simply finding 2 of the same shades of blue, red, or yellow was a feat all in its own, or maybe it was a result of his view on the designer’s relationship with the economy.  Not being accustomed to the use of computers as aids in design, himself, may have been a factor as well–he speaks of computers in a disdainful tone throughout the booklet.  I wholeheartedly agree that the symbolism and timelessness of simple colors can have a profound impact on a design, but it really doesn’t make much sense when viewing his Canon as a whole.  However, despite these opinions of mine, his work speaks for his own, and his employment of color as a symbol itself rather than an accessory, helps me to better grasp the concept of design more readily.  And this rather lengthy response to his ‘short’ section leads me to admit that not only has he helped me learn a great deal, and therefore achieved his Canon’s intent, but that his concision is equaled to the Masters to whom he idolizes.



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