Lella Valle came from a family of architects. Her father was an architect, as were her siblings Gino and Nina. When she met Massimo Vignelli, they were both studying architecture, Massimo in Milan and Lella in Udine. They moved to Venice to continue studying together at the Venice School of Architecture.
In 1957 they moved to the United States, where Lella continued her architectural studies at MIT and later worked for Skidmore, Owens and Merrill as an interior designer, while Massimo studied at the Chicago Institute of Design. Back in Milan they founded their own Studio Vignelli di Design e Architettura, dedicated to furniture and product design, exhibition design and graphic design for firms such as Pirelli and Olivetti.
All of this work bears the mark of clarity and simplicity which is specific of her design approach, Massimo Vignelli, Designed by Lella Vignelli, 2013.
In 1965 they moved back to Chicago, where Massimo took part in the creation of the design firm Unimark International with Ralph Eckerstrom, among others. The firm specialized in graphic design, corporate design and signage, and even today is a benchmark in the sector. Their best-known work is the design for the New York subway map. In 1971, Lella and Massimo founded Vignelli Associates, where Massimo was in charge of graphic and corporate design while Lella managed the company and took part in all the three-dimensional design, which was interior design, exhibitions, furniture, tableware, jewellery and clothing. Some of the most important commissions of that time were the brand image for Knoll, ranging from graphic design to the design of exhibitions such as the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1972, or the interior and furniture design for Saint Peter’s Church in New York, designed by Hugh Stubbins in 1977.
The complete archive of their works is in the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, designed by the Vignellis and inaugurated in 2010.