Best of Design:Vignelli National Park Service

Explore the National Park Service publication designs by designer Massimo Vignelli through his own words, including the infamous Unigrid.

By Vignelli Center for Design Studies

Denali Denali (1992) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

In 1977, Massimo Vignelli designed a publications program for the National Park Service. Hundreds of NPS designers have used this design system to provide maps and information to visitors for over four decades.

Crater Lake Crater Lake (1988) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"As everyone should know, to design a graphic program for the government implies a great deal of responsibility. The numbers involved are enormous and the impact, good or bad, is tremendous."

JNEM [Jefferson National Expansion Memorial] / Gateway Arch JNEM [Jefferson National Expansion Memorial] / Gateway Arch (1988) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The United States National Park Service administers 350 national parks––some being nature site, some historic––with 300 million visitors per year."

Fort Moultrie Fort Moultrie (1988) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"Every one of them receives a site map with park information. Books and exhibitions are also a part of the information program."

Klondike Gold Rush Klondike Gold Rush (1988) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"In 1977, we designed the basic format and prototypes for all NP publications, a format which was then implemented by a very skillful staff of designers, writes, photographers, etc."

Edison Edison (1990) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The first thing we decided to do was standardize the size of folders into a system of folded posters that could be places in kiosks or hung in schools."

Unigrid Unigrid (1985) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"Then we created a very flexible grid with a black identification band at the top for displaying the park name, and selected a limited range of typefaces and sizes."

Site Bulletins Site Bulletins (1982) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"We did the same for books. Cartography, photos, and illustrations were also a vital part of the program."

Appomattox Court House Appomattox Court House (1982) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The result has been a very consistent level of quality throughout, a strong visual identity and, above all, an incredible cost reduction due to the standardization of the elements."

Ford's Theatre Ford's Theatre (1988) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"Park Service Design team:
Melissa Cronyn, Nicholas Kirillof, Dennis McLaughlin, Linda Meyers, Philip Musselwhite, Mitchell Zetlin, and Vincent Gleason, Chief, Division of Publications"

Independence Independence (1989) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Massimo Vignelli won the first Presidential Design Award in 1985 for this National Park service publications program.

Cabrillo Cabrillo (1985) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Credits: Story

Thank you to Massimo and Lella Vignelli for having the vision to preserve such a rich and complete archive of your design and for giving it to the world for inspiration.


The quoted text and artifacts featured here are part of the "Design: Vignelli" exhibition on view at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. The exhibition was designed, written, and curated by Lella and Massimo Vignelli. It is the last of their exhibition designs still open to the public.


This virtual exhibition was created by Jennifer Whitlock, Archivist at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. Over the course of three years, she digitized nearly every artifact, wrote metadata descriptions, and curated this exhibition.


And to the student Archives Assistants at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies who helped with photographing the galleries, gathering artifacts, transcribing the gallery text, scanning, and moral support. Thank you, Alexandra Serpikov, Emily Sharp, Claire Popoli, Leah Green, and Carmen Lopez.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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