Vignelli, Massimo: NAPOLI: VEDI NAPOLI E POI MUORI [Poster]. Lissone, Italy: Arti Grafiche Meroni, [1984].

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Massimo Vignelli [Designer]

Massimo Vignelli [Design]: NAPOLI: VEDI NAPOLI E POI MUORI. Lissone, Italy: Arti Grafiche Meroni , [1984]. Original impression. 38 x 26.75 - inch [96.52 x 67.945 cm] trim size image printed via offset lithography on a thick black matte sheet sheet. The black ink is varnished for a subtle look. A fine, fresh example.

38 x 26.75 - inch [96.52 x 67.945 cm] poster designed by Massimo Vignelli: “A poster commissioned by Napoli ’99 Foundation as a contribution towards the cultural image of the city.”

From the Cooper Hewitt: Massimo Vignelli’s poster was commissioned by the Napoli 99 Foundation along with twenty-three other artists from around the world as a contribution towards the cultural image of Naples. Each artist’s interpretation of the city touched on a wide range of topics from architecture, poetry and music, to Mount Vesuvius, the earthquake, and pollution.  The posters were first exhibited in Naples but later traveled to Rome, Los Angeles, Dundee and Lahti in order to contribute to the knowledge, promotion and enhancement of the Neapolitan cultural heritage.

As seen throughout Vignelli’s design “canon,” or aesthetic, his designs are distinguished by the brilliant use of typography and a strict adherence to the grid. Order and clear meaning are Vignelli’s top priorities – he only violates the grid when absolutely appropriate. Vignelli believes that both the proliferation of media and the hazards of living in the computer age contribute to a new level of visual pollution threatening our culture. Like those of the modernist school, as exemplified by the Bauhaus, Vignelli believes in “simple things that work, that last, that are good, and that are real.” Following his mantra, “if you can’t find it, design it” Vignelli uses his own standardized version of the Bodoni typeface, refined specifically to work with Helvetica.

Though a seemingly simple composition, Vignelli’s design is in fact a complicated play on the superstitious nature of Neapolitans. The stark white text spells out the popular epithet vedi Napoli e poi muori, which translates as “see Naples and die.” The phrase means that before dying you must experience the beauty and magnificence of Naples.  Just above the text, directly center but barely discernable, are two black eyes confronting the viewer’s gaze. The composition is at once ominous and ambiguous; it’s hard to tell if Vignelli is poking fun at superstition or validating it, but for the sake of his brilliant design, we will have to take our chances!

The Naples NinetyNine Foundation sponsored a series of 25 posters from 1984 – 1986 with the primary objective of contributing to the knowledge, promotion and enhancement of cultural heritage of Naples and Southern Italy.

The 25 participating designers were Walter Allner, Stuart B. Ash, Saul Bass, Bruce Blackburn, Pierluigi Cerri, Ivan Chermayeff, Giulio Confalonieri, Heinz Edelmann, Gene Federico, Alan Fletcher, Jean-Michel Folon, André François, Milton Glaser, Tomás Gonda, F H K Henrion, David Hillman, Takenobu Igarashi, Mervyn Kurlansky, Italo Lupi, John Mcconnell, Armando Milani, Art Paul, Tullio Pericoli, Arnold Schwartzman, and Massimo Vignelli.

Their interpretations of the city cover a wide range of themes: architecture, poetry, music, the earthquake, pollution, Vesuvius. The 25 posters have been exhibited in Naples, Rome, Los Angeles, Dundee, and Lahti. The project won the award for the best social graphics at the 1987 Lahden Biennal Exhibition. Collect them all!