Design Conversations Lecture: 9/8/2015

Designers Beatriz Cifuentes and Yoshiki Waterhouse of Waterhouse Cifuentes, a multidisciplinary design firm based in New York, are the first Design Conversation Lecturers for the 2015/2016 academic year. Cifuentes and Waterhouse are former Vignelli Associates.

Waterhouse and Cifuentes build upon over fifteen years of work with their mentor Massimo Vignelli for international clients, as well as decades of Vignelli design philosophy, discipline, and practice. Their work has received many design awards, and is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Waterhouse Cifuentes Design takes a pragmatic approach to designing systems across a wide range of scales and media, from print and digital graphics to corporate identity, transportation graphics, products, signage, interiors and
architecture. By carefully integrating of each facet of a project, the firm creates a consistent and efficient visual language.

In addition to running their studio, Cifuentes and Waterhouse give lectures and workshops on design practice, and collaborate on projects related to the Vignelli legacy. Cifuentes and Waterhouse recently launched, an online platform that conceives and manufactures timeless products.

Lecture Information

Interpreting services available upon request:

University Gallery
James E. Booth Hall
Rochester Institute of Technology
Park in lots E or F


Design Conversations Lecture 09/08/2015



V5: The Vignelli Center Celebrates 5 Years

September 16, 2015 marks the fifth year since the Vignelli Center for Design Studies opened in 2010. The Vignelli Center will commemorate its anniversary with a year of special programs, projects and initiatives.


Celebrations for V5 will take place during RIT’s 2015/2016 academic year and will include lectures, workshops, artifact presentations, and activities.

V5 Schedule
The schedule will be updated often. Not all events are posted.
Updated August 31, 2015

Tuesday, September 8
Beatriz Cifuentes and Yoshiki Waterhouse
Waterhouse Cifuentes Design
Design for Transportation
A Design Conversations lecture.
University Gallery, RIT

Wednesday, September 16
5 for our 5th
5 groups of unique artifacts to celebrate our 5-year anniversary on September 16.
Helen Hamlyn Trust Study Room, Vignelli Center for Design Studies Level 4
Open to the public.

Tuesday, September 20
Cheryl Weese
Design for the Public
A Design Conversations lecture
University Gallery, RIT

Thursday, October 15
Mark McKenna
Design Director, Turnstone and Education at Steelcase
How Neuroscience Prompted a Chair
A Design Conversations lecture
Golisano 70-1400

Friday, October 16
Brick City Weekend Tours & Artifact Presentations
1pm, 1:45pm, 3:30pm
Meet in University Gallery, Booth Hall

Katie Nix
Vignelli Center for Design Studies

About Design Conversations

The Vignelli Center’s annual Design Conversations lecture series provides the community with the opportunity to gain invaluable insight from design professionals. Lectures serve to create design dialogue and discourse among students, faculty, and the community.

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Type Intensive for Industrial Design Students

Students of professor Dan Harel’s Senior Industrial Design Studio course completed two Typography Intensive sessions (three hours each) lead by professors Bruce Meader and Roger Remington of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies.

Industrial Design students at Vignelli Center
Professor Dan Harel (standing), Professor Bruce Meader, Sara Prout, Audrey Kirk, Ned Masury, Weston Harris

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Pastor Jared R. Stahler: Design Conversations

On April 14, 2015 Pastor Jared Stahler of St. Peter’s Church in New York will be speaking at the Vignelli Center’s Design Conversation lecture series. His topic will be “Life at the Intersection: Church Meets Vignelli.”
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New Donations to the Vignelli Center

The Vignelli Center has significant new donations to its collections that include design artifacts for Schick-Eversharp Razor Company, footage from “Design is One: Lella and Massimo Vignelli,” and an exhibit from Saint Peter’s Church.
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May 5: Design Conversations, Kimberly Elam

Author, educator and designer Kimberly Elam will talk about “Grids, Non-Grids, Broken Rules, and Passion in Design” on May 5 at Rochester Institute of Technology.
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March 4: Design Conversations, Antenna Design

How does design change behavior? Antenna Design founders Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger will visit RIT for a Design Conversations lecture on March 4, 2015. This lecture is open to the public.

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Medicine+Design Initiative Continues

The success of the Medicine+Design Conference in 2014 has been extended with new innovative programming activities.
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Worldwide Acclaim for “Human Health” Book

The Human Health Book, a product of RIT’s Vignelli Center for Design Studies Medicine+Design initiative, led by Graphic Design Professor Bruce Ian Meader has received enthusiastic praise by the medical community.

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Design Conversations Lecture Series 2014/2015

The Vignelli Center’s annual Design Conversations lecture series provides the community with the opportunity to gain invaluable insight from design professionals.
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Cancelled: Feb 16: Chris Pullman, “10 Things I’ve Learned”

Chris Pullman’s lecture scheduled for Monday, February 16 “10 Things I’ve Learned,” has been cancelled. Please join us tomorrow, February 17, in the University Gallery for a Design Conversations lecture on “Designing with Motion.” This talk focuses on how the conventions of typography and the dynamics of word-image interactions change when working with time, motion and sound.

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Feb 17: Design Conversations, Chris Pullman

“Designing with Motion.” Chris Pullman, former Design VP of WGBH Boston, will visit the Vignelli Center to deliver a Design Conversations lecture on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. His talk focuses on how the conventions of typography and the dynamics of word-image interactions change when working with time, motion and sound.This lecture is open to the public.

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Medicine + Design Conference Report

On November 7-8, 2014 at Rochester Institute of Technology, the Medicine+Design Conference brought together healthcare professionals with industrial and graphic designers for a program that is targeted at medical professionals in the Rochester region and beyond. One and one-half days were devoted to cutting edge case studies from around the globe, developed by wellness professionals who will present models of their functional solutions.
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Pittsford High School Students Study Unigrid

Graphic Design II students in Maribeth Curran’s Graphic Design classes at Pittsford Mendon High School and Pittsford Sutherland High School (Rochester, New York) are designing a series of brochures for Rochester-area landmarks and points of interest. To design a system of brochures, students studied Massimo and Lella Vignellis’ Unigrid and applied its principles to their work.

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The Art of Designing Everything

R. Roger Remington, Massimo and Lella Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design, joins Dr. Renato Miracco, Cultural Attache, Embassy of Italy in Washington, D.C.; and Steven Litt, Moderator, Art and Architecture Critic, The Cleveland Plain Dealer for a lecture about Massimo and Lella Vignelli. 
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Design Conversations: Gary Smith

Gary Smith, Vice President of Product Design & Exploration at Herman Miller, Inc., the global leader in designed furnishings for working, living and healing environments, will lecture at Rochester Institute of Technology on December 2, 2014.

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Design Conversations: Anne Ghory-Goodman

Anne Ghory-Goodman is the first Visiting Scholar in Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Design and the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. Her Design Conversations lecture is November 18th at 4pm.
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Anne Ghory-Goodman Named as CIAS Visiting Scholar

Dean Lorraine Justice has announced that Professor Anne Ghory-Goodman has been named Visiting Scholar in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.
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Massimo Vignelli: The Master Beyond the Designer

Michael Gagliano and Marco Zannini were among the participants in the 2012 Master Designer Workshop at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, RIT. They were among the last persons to visit Massimo Vignelli and what follows is their personal tribute to him, composed after his passing on May 27, 2014.

It is very rare, for those of us with limited experience who first approach a profession, not to be fascinated by the concept of “Master.”

The greatness of the human species is based on our ability to pass on the stored knowledge in order to broaden collective lore and generate progress. During the Renaissance, those artists who achieved the status of “Master” would educate the most promising young artists and sculptors, who often ended up becoming masters themselves. The history of design itself is rich with examples: Peter Behrens, Mies van der Rohe, Shiro Kuramata, John Pawson, and many others who experienced an intensive relationship between Master and apprentice. AG Fronzoni was fond of saying: “My ambition is not to design a poster. My ambition is to design men.” For this reason he created his own bottega that abandoned the model of traditional schooling to embrace one based on intellectual exchange between Master and apprentice. A Master who is in tune with his apprentice is able to infuse an enormous amount of self-confidence, wisdom and knowledge. An apprentice who experiences such a relationship is fortunate because the Master’s influence creates lifelong change.

Our Master was Massimo Vignelli.

Our bond with Massimo grew at an incredible pace. It quickly went beyond a mere student/teacher relationship, transforming into a Master/apprentice relationship. We first met Massimo in 2013 when he was teaching a Master Designer Workshop in Rochester, New York. From the time we returned to Italy after our first meeting in the United States, three days couldn’t pass without a lengthy video call on Skype during which Massimo, between a joke and a smile, would show us his latest projects, tell us a multitude of anecdotes, stories, experiences, memories. He would always ask to see our work, always with that sparkle in his eyes that showed the lively brilliance of a man who focused his life successfully around his passion. During one of our final calls, even though he had been very ill, he took his Leica and asked us to pose for a photograph. “My Milanese designers!” he affectionately exclaimed after taking it. Every time we received a compliment from him, our hearts were filled with pride.

Many people who saw him from the outside imagined Massimo as some sort of mystic monk: austere, rigid, severe, a master of discipline and quiet immersed in his rituals. Some of that could be true, but at the same time nothing could be further from reality. When he entered a room, he filled it with his explosive personality. Extremely charismatic and empathetic, Massimo brimmed with an incredible joie-de-vivre that he kept until his very last days. The influence of his passion for design and his curiosity was so strong; it penetrated to our hearts and imprinted a unique sense of empowerment. We were informed and expanded by his thinking, and there was always intelligence and purpose in his observations.

Massimo was able to articulate his thoughts and ideas with beautiful words that transmitted the same focused power as his works; listening to him was a privilege. It was, above all, Massimo’s personality that made his work unique. It appears to be replicable, but anyone who studies it assiduously learns that is an illusory perception. The clichés most often associated with his work (such as the sole use of four typefaces, the use of only three colors, or the idea of ​​a rigid and inviolable grid) are a superficial and often wrong perception about his discipline and visual lexicon. Starting in the 1960s with works such as the Galileo publications, the Sansoni paperbacks and the Piccolo Teatro di Milano identity, Massimo began to define his visual language, which was rooted in the principles of the International Style but also subject to a process of meticulous and continuous refinement. An identifiable maturity of language can be seen from the second half of the 1970s onwards, when his multiple influences merged harmoniously with his outstanding typographical craftsmanship.

A comparison between two Vignelli masterpieces, such as the 1966 Stendig Calendar and the 1976 Bicentennial Poster, shows the mingling of influences and the remarkable variety of approaches that was typical of Massimo’s mature language.This was Massimo Vignelli’s great contribution to design history: he was able to bring a breath of fresh air to modernist graphic design, releasing it from austerity and introducing a brand of intellectual elegance and purity that still fascinates designers to this day. It is not the minimalist compositions or the generous use of white space that made his work great, it was his ability to take those canonic elements and integrate them with the more eclectic side of his personality. He eschewed decorative narcissism and instead created a language that was pure in its complexity. Throughout his life, there was flexibility in the application of his own discipline; a masterful understanding that breaking the rules always requires the painstaking effort of creating new ones.

“If you can’t find it, design it,” he often said. This was a powerful lesson that he willingly shared with several generations of designers. The quintessential example was the Vignelli Associates office on 10th Avenue, which we only knew from photographs: a serene space, almost monastic, where the spatial experience and the feeling of calm were not created by trivial choices and a sheer reduction in the amount of elements, but rather by an extraordinary use of ordinary materials and lighting that made every single, little detail sing. His diagram for the New York subway, perhaps his most widely recognized design, was the objectification on paper of his principles of purity and simplicity, just like the Barcelona Pavilion was the objectification in marble and glass of Mies van der Rohe’s modern principles. Some would say that both were functionally lacking, yet both offer a rare expression of beauty.

We flew from Milan to New York to visit Massimo for a last time. On May 23rd, we spent two indelible hours with Massimo, hours filled with emotion. After everything he had given to us, it was time for us to give something to him; to share a personal goodbye as a sign of our tremendous respect. We were pleased to see that his home overflowed with letters. These carefully labeled boxes of correspondence from all over the world were words from people, like us, whose lives he had changed and influenced.

We were still in New York on the morning of May 27th when we received a phone call from our friend, Jan Conradi, with the sad news: “Massimo passed away this morning.” Later that day we visited his good friend, Richard Meier, whose architectural office is on Tenth Avenue, in the same building where the Vignelli Associates office was located from 1985 to 2000. After the meeting, we went down in the elevator. We thought about how many times Massimo must have stood in that same cabin with Lella; about how many times they were going home after a day spent working on exciting projects. That day, May 27, 2014, perhaps Massimo took another elevator instead, to a better place. His chair was ready at the table, and the greatest designers of history were waiting for him.

Grazie Maestro.

Michael Gagliano
Marco Zannini
Milan, Italy

Michael Gagliano, Sean Wolcott, Massimo Vignelli and Marco Zannini in New York. May 2014.