Best of Design:Vignelli Packaging

Explore the work of designers Lella and Massimo Vignelli through their own words, from 1960s cologne to Bloomingdale's shopping bags to Italian wine

By Vignelli Center for Design Studies

Design: Vignelli exhibition, Rochester, NY. Packaging Design (2010) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"Although the primary function of packaging is to protect the product, its most important function is to create an intangible expression of the product either through the use of visual metaphors, or by describing it objectively and visually articulating the typography."

Marchesi Fassati di Balzola Catello di Passirano Marchesi Fassati di Balzola Catello di Passirano (1994) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"In packaging, truth and lies often share the same surface, and that ambiguity is also a part of the communication."

Colton Headquarters, Boston, MA Colton Headquarters, Boston, MA (1967) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Colton Packaging program, 1967/1970

"For this Company, a division of Gillette, we designed all packaging of their products and even their office interiors."

Nine Flags Cologne Nine Flags Cologne (1965) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"It started with NINE FLAGS cologne,..."

My Islands Cologne My Islands Cologne (1966) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"...followed by MY ISLANDS,..."

Nuts & Bolts Nuts & Bolts (1968) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"...and then NUTS & BOLTS. Each one of these products were aimed to different market segments, men, women, and young men, and package were designed accordingly."

Heller boxes (1968) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Heller Packaging Program, 1968

"The boxes were intended to identify the name with a new brand of design-conscious products at the point of sale."

Heller MaxMug packaging by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"We decided to keep the name ‘Heller” the same size regardless of the dimensions of the box, cropping when necessary."

Heller 505 oven/microwave bakeware box Heller 505 oven/microwave bakeware box by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The orange color of the type on plain corrugated board became so much a banner of what the company stood for that even when the name was shortened and transformed by the size of the box, it maintained its strong identity."

Bloomingdales packaging Bloomingdales packaging (1972) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Bloomingdale’s, 1972

"The concept we came up with for Bloomingdale’s packaging program was that of portraying and recollecting the shopping experience particular to this extraordinary department store."

Bloomingdale's packaging Bloomingdale's packaging by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"Boxes of different solid colors are distribute throughout the areas of the store. Only an elastic band carries the store name."

Bloomingdale's packaging Bloomingdale's packaging by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The box is identified as it leaves the store, but once at home, the band gets discarded and the box can be used again as a plain beautiful container for storage."

Bloomingdale's packaging Bloomingdale's packaging by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The shopping bags are divided into two categories: permanent and temporary. The first, plain with the store name, relates to the graphic program; the second differs from the program as much as possible, portraying the fashions and suggesting a sense of change, or else promoting the store’s special programs. We call this approach “identification without branding.”

Ciba Geigy boxes (1976) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Ciba Geigy Packaging program, 1976

"When those two Swiss giant Companies merged, we were asked to design a new name and the relative packaging program for their pharmaceutical line of products."

Ciba Geigy Spasmo-Cibalgine / Sapasmo-Cibalgin boxes Ciba Geigy Spasmo-Cibalgine / Sapasmo-Cibalgin boxes (1976) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"We designed this simple two color approach to increase the identification of the products brand."

Perugina Chocolate Packaging (1983) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Perugina Chocolate packages, 1983

"If you like chocolate, this is the ideal client. The packages are designed to illustrate some situations appropriate for gifts."

Fratelli Rossetti Fratelli Rossetti (1984) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Fratelli Rossetti Packaging Program, 1984

"This packaging program is part of a comprehensive program, from logo to packaging, from catalogs to signage."

Fratelli Rossetti (1984) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"We were intrigued by the pattern established by the repetition of the Company logo and we used it throughout the program."

Feudi Di San Gregario (2001) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Feudi Di San Gregorio Winery Italy 2001

"In redesigning the labels for these wines from South Italy, we kept the little mosaic figures which were in the previous labels and designed an equally little label with the wine name to be positioned under it."

Feudi Di San Gregario (2001) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"This resulted on two small stamp like labels which gave a great uniqueness to this brand and made it immediately identifiable. This design received the Oscar Award for wine labels, which contributes to the success of this brand."

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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