A Kid’s Guide to the Vignelli Canon

To kick off the week, we started with a couple noteworthy reads: The Vignelli Canon by Massimo Vignelli and A Kid’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd.

The Vignelli Canon

The first article I read was The Vignelli Canon by Massimo Vignelli. Designed as a quick guide and deep dive into the world of Vignelli’s approach to graphic design, the 96 page booklet gives the reader an exorbitant amount of critical information necessary to start implementing incredible guidelines into ones work.

The canon is broken up into two parts: the intangibles and tangibles of design. In the first part, Vignelli states that “guidelines are set by ourselves for ourselves” (6). I think this simple phrase captures a major essence of what graphic design is all about. Graphic design shouldn’t be all about following rules and guidelines set by one or a few. Design is fluid and no design is right or wrong – to some capacity.

Vignelli continues on to talk about different aspects to design such as semantics and syntactics. Semantics are, as he defines it, “the search of the meaning of whatever we have to design… by understanding the subject in all of it’s aspects…” (10). Semantics are always present. They are the required steps to accomplish what needs to be understood. On the other side of the coin is syntax. Syntax is “the discipline that controls the proper use of grammar in the construction of phrases and the articulation of a language, Design” (12). With syntax, the application of what has been learned is key. Without demonstration and successful implementation, nothing can be accomplished or moved forward.

The read also covers, intellectual elegance, timelessness, grids, scale, texture, and even the role that color plays when designing. Intellectual elegance coupled with timelessness solidifies the belief that design should not be grounded in obsolescence. Good design should last years, or even decades, with no grand need for change. Grids and scales should add structure to ones creativity, not stifle it. Texture and color can also add an additional layer of depth and dimension, creating a more visually-exciting image or layout. The Vignelli Canon was an excellent read that showed me countless tips and tricks when thinking about design. His approach to using structure to heighten creativity rather than hinder it is stimulating.

A Kid’s Guide to Graphic Design

The second piece I read was an article titled A Kid’s Guide to Graphic Design by the Iconic Designer Chip Kidd. This article was a fair amount shorter in length compared the Vignelli Canon but still an excellent and interesting read nonetheless.

The article starts out by stating that design touches every aspect our lives. If nature did not make it than someone else did. Design is inherent to human nature and that is something we need to always remember. When it comes to design, it is our job to convey the intended message within seconds. This can be done using specific colors or certain verbiage.

Colors are highly effective in conveying a specific human emotion in advertisements, products, and overall design imagery. “Cool” colors can be made up of blues, purples, grays, and greens. These colors give us a chillier sense, resulting in a more somber tonal mood. “Warm” colors can be red, orange, our yellow and convey a sense of happiness or anger. Color alone can immediately affect how a person interacts with a design.

Because Chip Kidd works so much with children design, he states that it is important that you never talk down to them or confine their curiosity. Using too simple of a design can contextually be taken badly by the kid if they feel they are too old for the design or layout. On the other hand, having too complex of a design can also be harmful to the design if the kid cannot understand what information is trying to be conveyed.

Designing artwork and publications specifically for children can be difficult, but Chip Kidd expertly knows how to treat them with respect while getting the most out of an effective kid-targeted design language.