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New Work: ‘Massimo Vignelli Makes Books’

“The grid is an integral part of book design,” says the incomparable Massimo Vignelli. “It’s not something that you see. It’s just like underwear: you wear it, but it’s not to be exposed. The grid is the underwear of the book.”

Vignelli’s approach to book design is the subject of a new video created by Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and Aron Fay for “What Will You Make Today?” campaign from Mohawk. In the video, Vignelli discusses his use of the grid as the basis for the layout of a book’s pages, using one of his classic book designs for the architect Richard Meier as an example. Working with an audio interview edited by Hilary Frank, Bierut and Fay animated Vignelli’s sketches for the clip, taking them from skeletal grid to finished publication.

Bierut knew Vignelli’s painstaking step-by-step process well. “Because I worked with Massimo for ten years before joining Pentagram, I was very familiar with his unique way of designing books. He sits with all the ingredients—text and images—and draws each page with a pencil, including every photograph, using a grid as a layout guide,” he says.

The video is accompanied by a small limited edition journal that reproduces Vignelli’s grid from the film. The journal is available from Mohawk’s website, while supplies last.

The interior pages of the journal feature the grid of 24 rectangular blocks that Vignelli used as the basis of his layout for the Meier monograph, as seen in the video. The book is printed on Mohawk Superfine Ultrawhite Eggshell finish, one of Vignelli’s favorite papers, and the grid has been debossed on the front and back covers. Bierut talks more about the process of designing the video and the journal on Mohawk’s Felt & Wire site.

The “What You Will Make Today?” campaign looks at various “makers” and their creative processes and launched last year with our new identity for Mohawk. A previous video in the series, “Tom O’Connor Makes Paper,” featured the company’s CEO. Other clips are planned for later this year.

Project Team: Michael Bierut, partner-in-charge and designer; Aron Fay, designer and animator. Drawings by Massimo Vignelli. Audio production by Hillary Frank.