In “Design is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli,” the male half of the celebrated husband-and-wife design team can often be seen wearing a square, pewter-color brooch where a collar button would normally be. It’s in the shape of a grid. Vignelli will often use grids in his designs. Just glancing at the brooch, you might mistake it for a clerical collar. That’s not inappropriate, since Vignelli is something of a priest of design — and Lella Vignella a priestess. The sleek, spare look of their designs has a kind of opulent asceticism.
Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra’s documentary opens Wednesday at the Museum of Fine Arts. You may not recognize the Vignelli name, but you certainly recognize their designs. Over the past half century, they have created dinnerware, logos, furniture, jewelry, books, even clothes — “the whole field of design,” as Lella says. “If you don’t find it, design it” is her motto, one she and her husband have clearly lived by and profited from. Among the Vignellis’ clients have been American Airlines, Knoll, Bloomingdale’s, Benetton, the New York City subway system, and the National Park Service.