Co.Design

Watch Massimo Vignelli Design A Book, Page By Page

The venerable designer shares his secret weapons for book design: a simple grid and a pencil.

What’s the most important tool in the book designer’s arsenal? These days, for most designers, you’d assume it’s the Adobe Creative Suite. But Massimo Vignelli isn’t most designers, and as we see in this charming video by Pentagram’s Michael Bierut, Vignelli keeps things decidedly old school when he’s laying out pages. His indispensables for creating a beautiful book? A grid and a pencil.

The grid, Vignelli explains, is like "the underwear of the book." It’s always there but never seen (at least, not if you’re doing it right), and it guarantees a satisfying arrangement, whether you’re dealing with a full-page spread or an assortment of smaller shots.

But Vignelli doesn’t just make a list of which pictures he wants, and where on the grid he wants them, for every page. He actually sketches the images—"every damn picture," he says—by hand himself. That may seem far less efficient than dropping images into InDesign, but Vignelli says it’s the fastest way for him to get the job done.

And you have to admit, it is an awfully romantic way to make a book. Instead of just existing as a file on some hard drive, every title Vignelli is involved in starts as a real, physical thing—a first draft created with the simplest of tools and crafted entirely by hand. Looking at the completed volume, you, the reader, may not stop to consider how it all came together—how the book put on its underwear, so to speak—but that’s precisely the point. You just get to admire the fully dressed final product.

[Hat tip: It’s Nice That]

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1 Comments

  • Greg Lloyd

    A delightful video, thank you. 
    It reminds me of a story about Seymour Cray - the great designer of ultra high performance computers from the 1960's through his death in 1996.

    "When asked what kind of CAD tools he used for the Cray-1 [circa 1975], Cray said that he liked #3 pencils with quadrille pads. Cray recommended using the backs of the pages so that the lines were not so dominant."

    You can see one of Cray's quadrille ruled pads in the Computer History Museum, 
    Mountain View CA

    http://www.computerhistory.org...