Best of Design:Vignelli Products

Explore the product designs by designers Lella and Massimo Vignelli through their own words, including innovative stacking plastic dishes in the 1960s to modernist watches in the 2000s.

By Vignelli Center for Design Studies

Casigliani Metafora #2 blocks by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"In product design, form and function are totally integrated; neither one follows the other. All materials have their nature; some are malleable like glass or steel, whereas some, like marble, are not."

Heller stacking dishware Heller stacking dishware by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"With some you can obtain precise details as with plastics; with others like pottery and china, you cannot. But all materials either reflect or absorb light according to the finish of the surface. Light is the master of form. Light defines the contour of objects, distinguishes hard and soft, transparent and opaque."

Heller glass bakeware by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"In designing objects or products for everyday use, we sense the importance of the user’s perception, and we articulate it to achieve deliberate connotations since whatever is perceived is retained and analyzed one way or another."

Venini Fungo lamp (1955) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Fungo Table Lamp, 1955

"In the early 1950s, Paulo Venini asked Massimo Vignelli to design a series of lighting fixtures in glass. It was a very challenging proposition to bring colorful Murano glass into play with light. This lamp was the result of an attempt to eliminate the lampshade by merging base and top, using typical Murano glass."

Heller Max I stacking dishware by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Heller Stacking Dinnerware, 1967

"This line of stackable plastic dinnerware was originally designed in Milan in 1964. The concept behind the dinnerware was to make a compact set of interlocking units that would save space and achieve a clean shape as a final result."

Compact stacking dinnerware (1964) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The set was immediately awarded the Compass d’ora by the ADI (Italian Design Association) but the manufacturer went out of business. The Museum of Modern Art owned one set of the dishes, which they lent to the Museum of Contemporary Crafts for a 1966 exhibition. That is where design entrepreneur Alan Heller saw the design for the first time."

Heller Max 1 Heller Max 1 by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"Heller decided to import the dishware to the United States. He went to Milan, found the molds, and revived the production. A few years later, we added more colors, and eventually production of the dinnerware was relocated to the United States."

Heller Max I, Home Furnishings Daily (1971) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The size of the plates, their edge-wall concept, their stack ability, and their brilliant array of rainbow colors quickly captured consumers’ attention, and the production became part of the American lifestyle."

Heller Max 2 Heller Max 2 by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Heller Stacking Cups, 1970

"The cups are stackable, and the handles, conceived as a projection of the cup’s walls, have a “hole” at the top generated by their form. As it happens, people in the United States tend to fill their coffee cups to the rim; consequently, the coffee would flow out of the cup onto the handle, then the flat saucer, and finally the table-what a shame! So the “hole” was filled. This was okay, but somehow it was like pulling the wings off of a butterfly: all you have left is a bug."

Heller maxmugs by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Heller Stacking Mugs, 1972

"In 1972, we added the mug to the Heller line. The mug is really just an elongated version of the coffee cup.It became a tremendously popular item."

Heller MaxMug packaging by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"It was so popular, in fact, that it was copied by several other manufacturers."

Heller bakeware Heller bakeware by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Heller Glass Bakeware, 1975

"The objective was to produce a set of glass products that could go from the oven to the table."

Heller Oven/Micro Bakeware Sale Heller Oven/Micro Bakeware Sale by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"This line has several unique features: the lids of the casseroles can also be used for baking; the handle goes all around the circumference and frames the food; and the grooved walls add sparkle to the glass and at the same time eliminate the transparency (food is prettier in plan than section)."

Heller Rainbow Dinnerware Heller Rainbow Dinnerware (1978) by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"In 1978, we designed the pitcher. The position of the lid indicates the pitcher’s open or closed function. A simple alignment of the indentation in the lid with the handle indicates that the pitcher is open for pouring."

Heller The Rainbow Group Heller The Rainbow Group by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"All the Heller dinnerware is made of plastic. Only with the advanced technology of molded plastics could we achieve such a precision of detail, consistency of dimension, and primacy of geometric shapes."

Casigliani International Design Kyoto dishware by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Kyoto Dinnerware, 1979

"The basic concept behind this stackable set of melamine dinnerware was to simplify the operation of collecting plates at the end of a meal. The deep plate can contain flatware and leftovers, thereby avoiding the usual, unpleasant operation of removing them before the plates are picked up. All you have to do is stack the plates one on top of the other, everything inside, to obtain a 'clean pile of dirty dishes.'"

Ciga Hotels glassware by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

Ciga Pitchers and Drinking Glasses, 1979

"A line of glassware designed for the Ciga Hotels, and made by the Italian glassworks of Venini."

Ciga Hotels glassware by Vignelli, MassimoVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The corrugation of the glass surface creates shadows and reflections, adding brilliance and elegance, and bringing life to a common material."

Ciga Hotels glassware by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Ciga Silverware, 1979

"This flatware is part of the comprehensive line of tableware designed for Ciga Hotels, Italy."

Sasaki Colorstone dishware (1985) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Sasaki Colorstone Dinnerware, 1985

"In this set of stoneware, we wanted to expose the nature of the material by wiping out the glaze on the edge of the plates, cups, etc."

Sasaki Colorstone (1985) by Law, DavidVignelli Center for Design Studies

"This gesture provides a decorative finish to the objects as well by contrasting the white line of the thickness with the color of the surface."

Sasaki Anello dinnerware (1986) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Sasaki Anello Dinnerware, 1986

"Anello dinnerware represents a play between the glossy, reflective surface of plate’s center and the border’s light-absorbing surface."

Sasaki Classico goblets (1986) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Sasaki Classico Goblets, 1986

"This line of crystal represents what we always looked for and never found: a simple geometric glass, half a sphere plus a cylinder on a straight stem, with minimal contact joints. “if you can’t find it, design it,” we say all the time. This is a perfect example."

Pierre Junod watches by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"We have designed many watches for Junod...

DualTime 2002
A watch for those in need of two time-zones.
Pierre Junod, Switzerland"

Pierre Junod MV 44 (Halo) watch Pierre Junod MV 44 (Halo) watch (2010) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Watch 44 2010

"A large size watch (44mm.) with great presence, nothing but long thick and thin arms."

Pierre Junod Numbers aka 12 Digits watch Pierre Junod Numbers aka 12 Digits watch (2006) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

12 Digits, 2006

"Following a request of a quadrant with digits we designed this one where the digits are small, like dots. . ."

Design: Vignelli exhibition slideshow by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

This slideshow, created by Massimo and Lella Vignelli, is included as part of the "Design: Vignelli" exhibition at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. When you enter the 3rd floor furniture gallery, you can view this program on the monitor. The slideshow primarily features examples of their 3D work : interiors, furniture, and products.

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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