Alan Heller and Karen John Heartwork

The Golden Age of Modernism: In Conversation with Alan Heller


The Heartwork team recently had the privilege to speak with Alan Heller, one of the world’s premier furniture manufacturers. Alan is notably credited with bringing Italian design stateside, through his eponymously named company, Heller. His years of wisdom include a long friendship and working relationship with design icons, Massimo and Lella Vignelli. We spoke with Alan following a viewing of the documentary Design Is One: Lella and Massimo Vignelli.

Massimo and Lella were two of the most prolific forces in design, particularly recognised for their graphic design, since the 1960s. If you’ve ever visited NYC, there is a high probability that you’ve engaged with at least one of the Vignelli’s contributions to modernism, which include the NYC Subway Map, and the Bloomingdale’s logo and bag design.

One of their most famous contributions to the modern design world world was the Heller Compact Stacking Dinnerware. Produced exclusively with Heller since 1971, the collection won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro and resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, amongst other accolades.

Our conversation ranged from the power of design, the impact of a mentor on both career and personal growth, to how to transform production for innovation. Read on to see clips from our conversation and revisit some memorable stories from one of the most influential period of design seen this century.

To learn more about Massimo and Lella’s legacy, explore the newly released monograph, Design: Vignelli, published by Rizzoli.


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