Vignelli Canon – the science of the art

Though almost all forms of art are subjective and and can be taken in ant direction, I believe it is generally agreed upon that there are decidedly correct ways to approach a work of art.  Graphic design is no exception to this rule; there are specific elements that make up a graphic, and practicing good technique in those aspects as you create your art will help make for a better result.  In his book, Vignelli seems to be most concerned with the elements that make up a graphic’s structure and how to properly approach working with them.  He focuses on these distilled, universal elements of graphic design rather than worrying about the creative, artistic side of the process.  I feel that this makes for a particularly useful guide since it covers the fundamentals of any graphic.  Though these teachings can be applied to any graphic design project, they do not interfere with the creative process.

Vignelli starts his book by covering the more ephemeral aspects of graphic design.  He discusses discipline, concision, and other conceptual factors like when it is appropriate to include certain “riskier” elements like intentional ambiguity.  Then he moves on the concrete, tangible aspects of graphic design, like space, coloring, and lettering.  The fact that Vignelli’s time was before the age of computer graphic design becomes evident here.  He mentions the use of certain objects like rulers and overlaying grids to assist in creating designs.  Many constraints that would cause you to require such aids are handled by computers now.  In this way, I suppose computers and graphic design programs have greatly streamlined the process of graphic design.  I enjoyed how he incorporates the elements he mentions into the text itself to provide examples and context.  It helps to make his points on what makes for good design, regardless of the content.

What Vignelli seemed most interested in throughout his book was the use of space.  He spends a great deal of time explaining all the different ways spacing and sizing parts of a graphic are hugely influential on the result.  He often reminds his readers that a graphic is largely the sum of its parts, and your spacing will affect every other part of your design.  For this reason it is crucial to understand good technique regarding spacing; if any one part of your design fits a certain way in its size and spacing, the rest of the design must follow suite.  He explains this through the use of grids.  When something is put on a sheet, a correspondingly sized grid is placed over the sheet.  For the design to look its best at this point, the rest of the objects placed on the sheet must make sense according to the grid.  I feel the most important thing to take from Vignelli’s book is the importance of good spacing.  It is a fundamental aspect of graphic design, one that is used in every project.  Mastering the use of spacing is a crucial way to improve any design you make.

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