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March 21, 2013

The more things change….

Rebecca Hume

Recently, I found myself thumbing through the pages of Graphic Design for Non-Profit Organizations, co-authored by design legend Massimo Vignelli and published in 1980. I’d expected to find evidence of how much design–and the needs of nonprofits–have changed in the last 30 years. And there was plenty of that. (Hot metal type? And what the heck is a photostat?)

But I was also pleasantly surprised to discover how much of Vignelli’s wisdom holds up in our Twitter-ified, post-typewriter age. Here are a few gems still well worth remembering:

On consistency:

Consistency and appropriateness are two yardsticks by which communications should be judged…A designer, working within guidelines established to maintain consistency, is free to focus on the most important part of design: making each communication right for its task.

On trends:

A recently-drawn [type]face may date quickly and should, therefore, be avoided.

On simplicity:

If one signal does the job, there’s no need to use more.

Avoid clutter; it’s better to show the more important things well than to cram everything in.

Another classic worth checking out: Vignelli’s original (and largely still-in-use) graphic standards manual for the New York City subway system