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The Designers of Herman Miller Edited by Donald Albrecht


The Designers of Herman Miller


The Designers of Herman Miller Edited by Donald Albrecht


Fifth printing, 2013 First MIT Press edition, ©2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher. Design by Sam Bidwell Set in Helvetica Neue & Bembo Printed and bound in the United States of America. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Albrecht, Donald. The Designers of Herman Miller/Donald Albrecht. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-7643-1119-3 1. Miller, Herman. 2. Furniture-United States. 3. Designers-United States. I. Title. NK1412.E18K57 2010 745.4’4922—dc20 94-24920 CIP


Contents Acknowledgements 3 Introduction 7 Part One Designers of mid-century classics 13 Chapter 1: Charles and Ray Eames 15 Chapter 2: George Nelson 77 Chapter 3: Isamu Noguchi 121 Part Two: Designers of other Herman Miller Classics—past, present, and future 125 Chapter 4: Gilbert Rohde 127 Chapter 5: Alexander Girard 133 Chapter 6: Robert Propst 143 Chapter 7: Jack Kelley 149 Chapter 8: Don Chadwick 155 Chapter 9: Bill Stumpf 161 Chaper 10: Tom Newhouse 165 Chapter 11: Geoff Hollington 167 Chapter 12: Bruce Burdick 173 Chapter 13: Stephen Frykholm 179

Part Three Chapter 14: Other Designers: 191 Paul Laszio Fritz Haller Poul Kjaerholm Verner Panton Jorgen Rasmussen Peter Protzmann Ray Wilkes Tom Edwards Conclusion 203 Bibliography 209 Index 215


“ Eventually everything connects — people, ideas, objects…the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” Charles Eames


Herman Miller Furniture

Introduction Leslie Pi単a


9

The Designers of Herman Miller

By molding lightweight plywood veneer into gently curved shapes, the Eameses created their classic Molded Plywood Lounge Chair with wood base, a worthy addition to dining or conference table at home or the office. Named by Time magazine as the Best Design of the 20th Century, this chair is available with or without upholstery in a range of finishes.

I used to work at home on an uncomfortable old chair, probably from a dining set, in front of a 1950s blond wood desk that did not accommodate a computer and keyboard. It is too difficult to part with the desk, but I recently brought home an Eames Soft Pad Chair with polished aluminum arms and frame, cushioned leather upholstery, a seat with adjustable height that tilts back and swivels, and a sturdy four-pronged pedestal with wheels (I also discovered an ingenious keyboard stand called a Scooter). My husband Ramon looked at the chair, sat down, stood up, sat down again and said, ‘This is a wonderful desk chair.”Then he looked at it again and added, “It’s also beautiful.We could use it just as well in the family room or even the living room.” (He probably forgot that the living

room is never used, except occasionally as a cut-through). Then it hit me why the chair was considered a classic and why it is included in a very distinctive catalog of the “Herman Miller for the Home” line of furnishings. The perception of designers, manufacturers, dealers, and other people who talk about furniture is that there are two disparate categories — contract and residential. Contract furniture is for the workplace and public places away from home; residential furniture, as the name denotes, is for the home. In other words, one is for places where people work, and the other is for places where people live. In the United States (more than in Europe) there is little crossover. To keep this segregation clear, even the styles differ. For the most part, twentieth-century residential furniture

has been, and still is, based on historic styles. Even as we approach the threshold of the millennium, it is no more surprising to see a room filled with uninspired wannabe eighteenth-century look-alikes than it is to see state-of-the-art electronics perched on them. Americans have an uncanny capacity for accepting visual and cultural anomalies. Modernism, the creation of new forms with a conscious effort to avoid historic style and redundant ornament, has found wider acceptance in the area of contract furniture than residential. Even in the early twentiethcentury, office furniture, though basically without style, was designed to be utilitarian. The attempt at function was a carry-over from the mechanical inventions called “patent furniture” in the Victorian era, and it


Introduction

took precedence over style and decoration. After the Second World War, the really alert designers began to introduce inspired forms of truly functional furniture that even looked original. It was designed from the inside out, and it could be appreciated from the outside in. Plus, it could be mass produced and marketed for huge populations of people in the workplace who suddenly needed furniture to accommodate new ways of doing business and better systems for organizing information. Inspired by what had been perceived as a handful of pre-war tubular steel Bauhaus prototypes and other austere eccentricities, it was the beginning of a revolution. With super-designers and thinkers like George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames on board, Herman Miller was suddenly in the process

of reinventing itself and modern furniture. Then in 1968 with the debut of Robert Probst’s Action Office, the first open office system with interchangeable components and extreme flexibility, the revolution was in full swing. But with few exceptions, the American home still looked about the same as it did before this rather radical reconfiguration of the American office. Today, neither the retail residential furniture industry nor the ubiquitous blandness of the American home have changed significantly. What is really curious is the division between work place and living place, Don’t people in fact live where they work and also work where they live? Most workers spend about one third of their day, maybe a fourth of their lives, in the workplace. Most of the

other three fourths is spent at home (including sleep time). When these two worlds are taken together, we live most of our lives with furniture. We eat on it, write on it, place things on it, work at it, and store things in it and on it. We decorate with it, put our feet up on it, lose things in its crevices, and watch the cat jump on it. We sit, lounge, play, make love, sleep, give birth, and die on it. Furniture is as much a part of our lives as any material object can be.Yet we casually allow others to design, build, and even select it for us without batting an eye. Most people give little thought to, or have little say in, the posture of their backs or the pleasure of their spirits. They are more particular about details when ordering a meal than in choosing a chair that will support a species-specific weak back and

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11

The Designers of Herman Miller

The Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chairs are perfect for living rooms and office spaces, a classic design that Time magazine named the Best Design of the 20th Century. It described these chairs as “something elegant, light, and comfortable. Much copied, but never bettered.” A true original, available with or without upholstery and a choice of metal finishes

give comfort to a hyper-sedentary bottom for years, perhaps decades. So why not have well-designed, functional, comfortable, durable, and good-looking furniture in both the workplace and the residence? And if it happens to have modern styling consistent with a modern life style, why should it be limited to the office or workplace? These are questions that the people at Herman Miller have been asking for years, and in 1994 they introduced a line of mid-century classics plus new designs called “Herman Miller for the Home.” Although these classics have been perceived primarily as contract furniture, they have also been attracting the attention of a growing cult of modernism collectors, dealers, and a general audience that is noticing the lack of style and choice in the residential

marketplace. The great designs are classics because they are still great by any standard. The company that led the office revolution has become a classic in its own right for acting on its beliefs and good ideas. Softening the barrier between contract and residential furniture is one of these ideas, and the classics, like the Soft Pad Chair in my home, are candidates for the job. The Star Furniture Co. was founded in Zeeland, Michigan in 1905 to produce high quality furniture, especially bedroom suites, in historic revival styles. Dirk Jan De Free began as a clerk with the company in 1909 and became its president by 1919, when it was renamed the Michigan Star Furniture Co. De Pree and his father-in-law, Herman Miller purchased 51% of the stock in 1923

and renamed the company Herman Miller Furniture Co. In 1960 it became Herman Miller, Inc. Until 1930 the company produced only traditional wood furniture.With the shrinking market of the Depression, they hired Gilbert Rohde and reluctantly took a chance with modern design. Rohde helped turn the company in a totally new direction, and in 1933 its modern furniture debut was held at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago. A showroom in the Chicago Merchandise Mart opened in 1939, and another opened in New York in 1941. Herman Miller entered the office furniture market in 1942 with its modular Executive Office Group (EOG) system designed by Rohde. When Rohde died in 1944 his replacement was ar


Introduction 6

chitect George Nelson, who joined Herman Miller as director of design in 1945 and carried on with the EOG concept. In addition to Nelson’s enormous personal contribution over the next four decades, he helped recruit other designers: Isamu Noguchi, who is known for his Biomorphic coffee table of 1947; Charles and Ray Eames among whose many contributions are series of molded plywood and molded plastic furniture that set the standard for modern furniture design; Alexander Girard, who designed vibrant textiles and bold graphics. Another important name is Robert Propst, head of Herman Miller Research Division formed in 1960, and inventor of the Action Office. Designs for Action Office I (1964-1970) were by the George Nelson office.

Although many of the original mid-century classics and those reissued as part of the Herman Miller for the Home collection have been used in residences, the focus of Herman Miller has been, and is today, on modern office environments. A new group of designers, including Don Chadwick, Bruce Burdick, Bill Stumpf, and Geoff Hollington have addressed the needs of both home and office environments, and their contributions are likely to become the classics of the future. The values have not changed; belief in the importance of good design, honest products, and respect for individuals and the environment have been, and continue to be, driving forces.The Herman Miller philosophy states, “We are committed to quality and excellence in all that we do and the way in which we do

it.” The quality and excellence begins with a need that is followed by a design. As former president (son of D.J.) Hugh De Pree said, “If there is anything that distinguishes Herman Miller from most other companies, it is our faith in the efficacy of design” (De Free 27). The classics that are presented here are testimony to that faith.


“ The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second doing something about it.� Ray Eames


Design is Method of Charles & Ray Eames


a Action

1


17

The Designers of Herman Miller

A good stacking chair should be light enough for easy storage and lovely enough to complement your interior. Classics like the Eames Molded Plastic Chair and contemporary beauties like the Air-Chair achieve both, and will be welcome additions to your living or meeting spaces.

1. A set of questions asked by the Musee des Arts Decoratifs was the basis of the Eameses’ section of the exhibition Qu’est-cequele <design>? {What Is Design?), held at the Louvre in 1969.When asked if design is “a method of general expression,” Charles Eames answered, “No—it is a method of action,”

In the summer of 1954 Charles and Ray Eames needed a new car, Charles had driven Fords since 1929. Together they had owned Ford convertibles since 1941, the year they married and moved to Los Angeles from Detroit. But wanting to buy a car in 1954— when wartime austerity was only a memory for many Americans--was difficult for the Eameses, who considered the automotive industry’s new two-toned models garish. “We believe in the use of standard production models,” Charles wrote Henry Ford II, asking the company’s president to help meet his need for an “anonymous” black convertible with a natural top, an interior of tan leather or good synthetic material, and a minimum of advertising logos. In conclusion Charles thanked the corporate titan “for the many

positive things that bear the name of Ford.”2 This simple one-page letter offers a key to understanding the many positive things that bear the name of Eames. Like Ford’s Model T, virtually everything Charles and Ray designed solved a problem. Ford satisfied America’s desire for cheap and easy mobility. The Eameses 3 solved more basic human problems, whether posed to them by clients or--as with most creative geniuses--posed by themselves. Bill Lacy, their friend and colleague,4 summed up the couple’s work: “There is no Eames style, only a legacy of problems beautifully and intelligently solved.”5 With the design of their own house the Eameses sought to solve the postwar veteran’s need for affordable shelter. Their mass-

produced chairs, tables, sofas, and storage units were beautiful yet inexpensive ways to furnish the modern interior and meet the increased demand for flexible, informal living. Their films, exhibitions, and books helped people understand the complex workings of the world around them. As expressed by Charles, the Eameses’ design credo — to bring “the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least” 6— resounded in their optimistic faith in modern industry and mass production. And in writing directly to Ford, Charles demonstrated his confidence that industry and designers could join forces and accomplish this uplifting mission. Over the years the Eameses would infiltrate corporate America as few designers before or since have done. Starting as furniture

2. This Aug. 26,1954, letter is in the possession of Lucia Eames, Charles’s daughter; ©1997, Lucia Eames dba Eames Office. In 1975 Fortune magazine reported that Charles Eames drove a 1955 Ford convertible for eighteen years before he gave it away, and Ray drove a 1960 model for twelve years. Afterward he bought a small Mercedei and she a Jaguar sedan, Walter IVlcQuade, “Charles Eames Isn’t Resting on His Chair,’ Fortune (Februrary 1975), 99.


Charles & Ray Eames

3. Throughout this essay I use the term “Eameses” in order to reinforce the collaborative nature of Charles and Ray Eames’s design practice. 4. Bill Lacy is currently the president of Purchase College, State University of NewYork. 5. Bill Lacy, “The Eames Legacy,” Los Angeles (June 1989), 77. 6. “A Designer’s Home of His Own: Charles Eames Builds a House of Steel and Glass,” Life, September 11,1950,152.

ers,they became communicators who helped high-technology giants such as International Business Machines (IBM),Westinghouse, Boeing, and Polaroid explain themselves and their products. The Eameses only took on projects they were in sympathy with and only worked with companies whose objectives they shared--objectives that were often in tune with a booming American economy hungry for new consumer goods. The Eameses’ range of corporate work was extraordinary: they received commissions from Herman Miller to design furniture, films, graphics, and showrooms; from Boeing to make a film promoting a proposed supersonic transport plane; from CBS for a series of short films for broadcast about popular culture; from Westinghouse for a film to illustrate the diversity of its product

lines; and from Time Inc. to design lobbies for the new Time & Life Building in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. The Eameses’ protechnology stance also ensured a vaunted position developing dozens of exhibitions, films, and books for IBM over the course of two decades. Charles and Ray Eames were especially well suited partners for America’s progressive industries. When they tackled a project, they did so in a modern, “corporate” way, seeing their products and those of their clients through the multiple lenses of design, manufacturing, distribution, promotion,and use by the customer.Their relationship with their clients was often both personal and professional. Young and successful, the Eameses embodied a forward-looking

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19

The Designers of Herman Miller

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, so wellknown in their black leather incarnation, are now also available in a whiter shade of leather and a pale ash wood. This stunning version of an Eames classic has a light, airy look, perfect for today’s interiors. The shell is a white ash veneer that’s finished with a process that maintains the wood in its natural, “freshly cut” state— a creamy white that resists yellowing.

perspective that fit well within the nation’s expanding capitalist economy. In order to understand the Eameses’ achievements, one must understand the challenges they set for themselves and the processes-- both conceptual and technical--they developed in their search for solutions. The Eameses’ work can be viewed as a series of questions they posed to themselves: how to produce affordable, high-quality furniture; how to build economical, well-designed space for living and working; how to help Americans and people from other cultures understand each other; and how to make fundamental scientific principles accessible to a lay audience. Representative projects from the Eameses’ vast body of work illustrate their solutions to these problems, which

were often developed in collaboration with clients who shared key goals and provided the means to realize them.7 This work reveals the ambition and scope of the Eameses’ agenda-from the utilitarian chairto more complex issues of human perception, understanding, and knowledge--as well as the overlap of that agenda with corporate America’s.8

Production Models for Modern Living Recognizing the need, Charles Eames once said, was the primary condition for the practice of design.9 At the outset of their careers together, Charles and Ray Eames identified the need for affordable, high-quality furniture for the average consumer—furniture that could serve a variety of everyday uses.

For the next forty years, they continued to experiment with ways to meet this challenge, designing versatility and flexibility into their compact storage units and collapsible sofas for the home; seating for stadiums, airports, and schools; multipurpose furniture for dormitories; and stackable chairs for virtually anywhere. An ethos of functionalism informed all their furniture. “You usually find,” Ray once said, “that what... works is better than what looks good. You know, the looks good can change, but what works, works.”10 The Eameses’ interest in creating functional furniture grew out of the egalitarianism of the Great Depression, when socially committed architects devised “new deals” to alleviate economic hardship through

7. These questions form

the conceptual basis and organization of the exhibition that this book accompanies. 8. Certain quotations in this

and other essays are from interviews conducted by Eames Demetrios, Charles and Ray Eames’s grandson, with Eames staff, friends, and colleagues.They are part of the ongoing Eames Office Video Oral History Project, © 1995, Lucia Eames dba Eames Office.


Charles & Ray Eames

Another question asked in conjunction with What Is Design? was “What do you feel is the primary condition for the practice of design and its propagation?” “Recognition of need,” Charles answered. Ray Eames, interview with Ralph Caplan, February 24,1981,Venice, Calif., Herman Miller archives, Zeeland, Mien.

design. New York’s Museum of Modern Art was especially active, promoting new ideas in housing for the poor and middle class and domestic products that were well designed and affordable. When Eames and architect Eero Saarinen won first prize in the museum’s 1940 “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition, they and their colleagues advocated collaborations between designers, manufacturers, and merchants to create mass-produced furniture for the American family of moderate income. Edgar J. Kaufmann, jr., a representative of his father’s trendsetting department store in Pittsburgh,11 had proposed the idea for the competition, and twelve department stores planned to market the winning pieces. (Three companies, including the Haywood Wakefield

Company, were set to manufacture the furniture, but the outbreak of war canceled the program.) Eames and Saarinen’s winning entry included a sectional sofa, molded-wood chairs, and modular units that formed benches, cabinets, desks, and tables. The chairs were produced by a manufacturing method new to furniture: a light structural shell consisting of layers of plastic glue and wood veneer molded into softly curving three-dimensional forms. In their technical innovation, aesthetic brilliance, and social purpose, these chairs prefigured the Eameses’ future furniture designs. The organic design competition also propelled Charles and Ray into full-fledged membership in a coterie of architects, designers, curators, and other taste makers who would become influential after World War II.

The war had democratized modern architecture and design, as thousands of new armament factories and mass-produced houses for defense workers were built across the country. Their functionalist aesthetic came to embody the architecture of an optimistic Pax Americana. Military victory brought power and prosperity, thrusting Americans, their government, and their business corporations into an international spotlight. For many, modern design symbolized the country’s new political and technological prowess. The machine-made gridiron of the steel and glass office facade--free of nationalist symbols and prewar traditions— became the established emblem of a new world order based on international business and finance. A leading generation of postwar archi-

20


â&#x20AC;&#x153; No design can exist in isolation. It is always related, sometimes in very complex ways, to an entire constellation of influencing situations and attitudes.â&#x20AC;? George Nelson


The


Diaghilev of Design George Nelson Michael Webb


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The Designers of Herman Miller

It was in 1947 that George Nelson became inspired by a self webbing material used to moth-ball ships in New York and he convinced himself it would be perfect for lighting. He made a metal frame, tracked down the source of the webbing material and by the next day he created a big glowing sphere and the Bubble Lamp was born. Modernica has faithfully reproduced the bubble lamps to the exact specifications using the original Howard Miller factory tooling. Six feet of white lamp cord included.

George Nelson’s long, productive life (190886) encompassed the birth, heyday, and decline of American Modernism. He made a major contribution to that movement as a writer, advocate, social critic, impresario, and architect. He was “an original thinker,” observes design critic Ralph Caplan, “with a gift for communicating Ideas and finding good people. His office had a consistency of thoughtfulness, even when it was whim­sical or humorous,” Nelson’s associate, designer Bruce Burdick, agrees: “George was a unique person who will be remembered for his thoughts and writings about design. His words were more important than the projects.” As design director for Herman Miller from 1945 through the mid-1960s and later

as an outspoken consultant. Nelson found what he called “a glorified cabinet shop” and helped make it an industry leader, a powerhouse of modern residential and contract design. He was passionately involved with this family firm over four decades, sharing the spotlight there with Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and, briefly, Isamu Noguchi. He brought these designers to them because he wanted nothing but the best and, as he explained, “I can’t have all the ideas.” “It scared the daylights out of me to pull Charlie into that act because I knew that, if I lived forever, I never could turn out stuff like those chairs he did,” Nelson confessed. I realized it was absurd for me to be director of design because no one was going to direct Charlie.”1

Nelson and Charles Eames were almost exact contemporaries and were often as close as siblings, sharing a passion for excellence and a loathing for compromise and expe­diency. Communicating ideas was another bond, and they collaborated seamlessly (with the enthusiastic participation of Alexander Girard) on a multimedia educational experiment. First presented at the University of Georgia in 1953 and reprised at UCLA the following year, “A Rough Sketch of a Sample Lesson for a Hypothetical Course” was a one-hour sensory extravaganza that has become the stuff of legend. Students were electrified: one exclaimed to Nelson, “All teaching should be like this.” Although Nelson consistently supported the Eameses, he sometimes resented the fact


Michael Webb 80

1. George Nelson, conversation with D. J. DePree (Zeeland, Mich.: Herman Miller Archives, 1982). 2. Michael Darling, “Ambient Modernism: The Domestic Furniture Designs of the George Nelson Office, 1944-63” (unpublished thesis. University of Califor nia Santa Barbara, 1997).

that they won more respect than he. It’s easy to see why this happened. The Eames Office designed chairs and tables that resolved basic issues and never went out of style. They solved problems on an abstract level and took as long as they needed to get things right. The Nelson office was under pressure to respond to immediate needs, and their problem solving often focused on instruments of daily life that have changed over the years, such as typewriters, record changers, and Dictaphones. These are now historic artifacts, and the desks and cabinets designed for them are material for a time capsule. Every design aficionado is familiar with the Nelson classics: the platform bench, Marshmallow love seat. Coconut chair. Sling

sofa, ball clock, and bubble lamps. However, Nelson was personally responsible for only the first of these and an early prototype of the last. As head of his own design office he hanndpicked brilliant talents and gave them the freedom to develop his ideas in their own way and to work independently on the design of furniture, graphics, clocks, lamps, exhibitions, interiors, an experimental house, and much else. That freed him to meet with clients, deliver lectures, organize a new approach to art education, conceptualize an exhibition, plan another Aspen design conference, or do what he loved best—write. Irving Harper, a former associate of Gilbert Rohde and Raymond Loewy, who joined the office in 1947 and was Nelson’s principal associate for seventeen years, told architec­ture


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The Designers of Herman Miller

Conceived in 1948, the Ball clock is a ceaseless symbol of modernity brought to a world in flux. With its orbit of twelve multi-colored wooden balls, the work unites time while expressing each movement as a singular point in reality. Perhaps there is no modern classic clock as famous as this.

involved with the first group of furniture, but after that his involvement was more minimal. He used to dream aloud about designs, and his ideas were mostly verbal. George was a great design head, but to call him a great designer is inaccurate and unfair to the other designers in the office. I would call him a Diaghilev of design,”2 Nelson was happy to admit the debt he owed his colleagues, though the practice of tin’ time was to credit the head of the firm for everything that emerged from the office. He was one of a handful of American designers —Raymond Loewy, Charles and Ray Eames, Henry Dreyfuss were others—whose names were celebrated and highly salable. In his later years, Nelson seems to have lost interest in product design, thought continued

to subsidize his speculative ventures. “If I had my druthers, [writing) would be the number one activity and the other stuff would be number two.” he told design curator Mildred Friedman. 3 “I find I’m getting more and more interested in why things are and what the meaning of this and that is, and much less intrigued by the quality of an object, although I like looking at them.” He joked that his parents had always wanted him to be a writer, and in the final analysis, they won. Everything Nelson did seemed to happen by chance. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, to arts-loving parents of Russian Jewish ancestry, he went to Vale with little idea of what he would do with his life, chanced on an exhibition of Beaux Arts sketches, and decided on impulse to study architecture. He taught him-

self to draw, graduated, and began what he expected would be a teaching career. Laid off at the beginning of the Depression, he went flat out to win the Paris Prize (a prize offering fellowships and residencies), and, though he failed, the momentum brought him the Rome Prize and a two-year scholarship to study at the American Academy there. While in Europe he met and interviewed several leading modern architects, starting with Le Corbusier, and on his return to America, Nelson sold his essays to Pencil Points magazine, supplying a convincing facsimile of the drawings the French master failed to deliver. Those sharply observed profiles led to an editorial post at Architectural Forum. In partnership with architect William Hamby, he designed a radical town house for

3. Nelson, interview with Mildred Friedman (Zeeland, Mich.: Herman Miller Archives, 1974). 4. D. J. DePree, memo to Jim Eppinger (Zeeland, Mich.: Herman Miller Archives, November 29, 1944). 5. Nelson, The Herman Miller Collection (Zeeland, Mich.: Herman Miller Archives, 1948). 6. Nelson, interview with Ralph Caplan (Zeeland, Mich.: Herman Miller Archives, 1981).


George Nelson

7. Nelson, “The Furniture Industry,” Fortune, January 1947. 8. D. J. DePree, videotaped staff briefing (Zeeland, Mich.: Herman Miller Archives, 1979). 9. Nelson, interview with Caplan. 10. Nelson, Introduction to Design Quarterly 98/99, 1975. 11. Nelson, The Herman Miller Collection, 1948.

airplane builder Sherman Fairchild on the upper east side of Manhattan, During the war he taught at Columbia and sketched “Grass in the Streets”— a concept that antici­ pated the pedestrian shopping mall. He took on a special project at Fortune, another Henry Luce magazine, where he designed the slatted platform bench as a way of deterring callers from sitting in his office for more than fifteen minutes. It failed that test, but became a durable icon; the foundation of another career. Toward the end of the war, he and Henry Wright, his coeditor at Forum, wrote a book, Tomorrow’s House, proposing innovative solutions to everyday needs. Unable to meet his deadline for a chapter on storage, he conceived the Storagewall — an expansion of an ordinary cavity wall to contain all the im-

pedimenta of daily life. This seminal design was published in Forum and later in a splashy Life feature, provoking wide public interest and intense hostility from the furniture trade press, which feared that the invention could ruin the case-goods industry. Those articles excited the Interest of Herman Miller president D. J. DePree, a devout Calvinist with a firm belief In providence and honesty In 1930 sales of heavy repro­duction furniture were lagging, and the firm, located in Zeeland, Michigan, faced bankruptcy Gilbert Rohde, a New Yorker who had picked up on European trends in his mid-forties, urged DePree to switch to Modernism and fabricate the cleanlined designs he would supply, arguing that applied ornament and faux historicism were

dishonest, He won his case, and the struggling company achieved a unique reputation. In 1944 Rohde died and DePrree was shocked by the mediocrity of the furniture experts who applied to take his place. Hoping for another stroke of providence, he invited Nelson to dinner at a Detroit hotel and gave his associates a glowing report of the meeting: “He is recognized among the architects, has a splendid background; is think­ing well ahead of the parade; does not want to be limited to the use of wood in plan­ning furniture; believes that more and more units will be built into the house but that a manufacturer of a line such as we have will not suffer for a long time to come… Although I haven’t seen any of his work I am convinced he is a star in at least some of the things he is doing,”4

82


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Kirkham, Pat. Charles and Ray Eames: De-

man Miller Collection. Catalogs. Zeeland, Michigan: Herman Miller Furniture Co., 1948,1950,1952 (also reprinted New York: Acanthus Press, 1995),1955/56 (also reprinted At glen, Pennsylvania: Schaffer Publishing, 1998).

signers of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: MIT, 1995.

Aidersey–Williams, Hugh and Geoff Hollington. Hollington Industrial Design.

London: Architecture Design and Technology Press, 1990. Caplan, Ralph. The Design of Herman Miller.

New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1976. —.Connections: The Work of Charles and Ray Eames. exhibition catalog. Los Angeles: Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, 1976. Cruikshank, Jeffrey L. and Clark Malcolm.

Herman Miller Inc.: Buildings and Beliefs. Washington D.C.: A.I.A. Press, 1994. De Pree, Hugh. Business as Unusual. Zeeland,

Nelson, George. Chairs. New York: Whitney,

1953; reprinted New York: Acanthus,1994. —.Display. New York: Whitney, 1953. —.Storage. New York: Whitney, 1954.

—.Problems of Design. New York: Whitney, 1957. —.George Nelson on Design. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1979. —.Changing the World. University of Michigan, 1987. Neuhart, John, Marilyn Neuhart, Et Ray

Eames. Eames Design. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991. Propst, Robert. The Office: A Facility Based on Change. Zeeland, Michigan: Herman Miller, Inc., 1968. —.Action Office: The System that Works for You. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Herman Miller Research Corp., 1978. Propst, Robert. et. al. The Senator Hatfield

Office Innovation Project. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Herman Miller Research Corp., 1977. —.Renwick Gallery. A Modem Consciousness: D. J De Pree, Florence Knoll. exhibit catalog. Washington D. C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975. University of Illinois. William Stumpf, Indus-

trial Design. exhibition brochure. Urbana– Champaign: University of Illinois, 1995.


ARTICLES Nelson, George. “The Furniture Industry.” Fortune 35 (January 1947): 106– Ill.

of Modernist Furniture, Dies.” The New York Times (March 4, 1986): D26, obituary.

Berman, Ann. “Herman Miller – Influential

“Business and the Industrial Designer.”

“Storage Wall.” Life (January 1945): 64–71.

Designs of the 1940s and 1950s.” Architectural Digest (September 1991): 34–40.

Fortune (July 1949): 92–98.

Sudjic, Deyan. “Playfulness.” Blueprint (Oc-

“Modern Furniture.” Interiors. (July 1949): 77–89.

tober 1994): 29–36.

“A Conversation with George Nelson.”

Industrial Design (April 1969): 76–77.

Branson, Michael. “Isamu Noguchi, the

Sculptor, Dies at 84.” The New York Times (December 31, 1988): obituary.

“Design, Technology, and the Pursuit of

Caplan, Ralph. “Caplan on Nelson.” Indus-

22–25.

trial Design. (January February 1992): 76–83.

Ostergard, Derek and David Hanks. “Gilbert

“Designers in America: Part 3.” Industrial

Rohde and the Evolution of Modern Design 1927–1941.” Arts Magazine (October 1981). —.Gilbert Rohde: The Herman Miller Years.’ 7–page typescript in Herman Miller Archives, n.d.

Design. (Oct. 1972): 30–31. “Furniture Best of Category: Aeron Chair.”

Industrial Design. Annual Design Review 1995 (July/August 1995). Gingerich, Owen. “A Conversation with

Charles Eames.” The American Scholar. (Summer 1977): 326–337. “Herman Miller for the Home.” Interior

Design. (December 1993). McQuade, Walter. “Charles Eames Isn’t Resting on His Chair.” Fortune (February 1975): 96–100, 144–145.

Ugliness.” Saturday Review (October 2, 1971):

Pearlman, Chee. “Machine for Sitting.” Indus-

trial Design (September/October 1994). “Royal Gold Medal for Architecture 1979: The Office of Charles and Ray Eames.” 12–

page packet, April 1979. Schwartz, Bonnie. “2 Chairs, 2 Processes.” Metropolis (May 1996). Slesin, Suzanne. “George H. Nelson, Designer

Tetiow, Karin. “Dock’N’ Roll.” Interiors

(September 1990): 146–151. —.”3 Chairs/ 3 records of the design process.” Interiors. (April 1958): 118–152 —.“25:Year of Appraisal.” Interiors. (November 1965): 128–161. Walker Art Center —.“Nelson, Eames, Girard, Propst: the Design Process at Herman Miller.” exhibit catalog. Design Quarterly 98199 (1975): 1–64. Wierenga, Debra, ad. “Design and the Office

in Transition – Part 1: A Conversation with George Nelson.” Ideas (November 1979): 1–20.


ARCHIVES Herman Miller Archives. Photographs and written material on designers, products, and the company. Contributors to the database containing material used in this project include Linda Folland, Hugh De Pree, Barbara Hire, Will Poole, and Bob Viol. Quotes by designers not attributed to other sources are from the ‘Designer Bio’ promotional sheets produced by Herman Miller. Action Office, 11, 114–115, 143–148 Aeron Chair, 157, 160, 163 Ambi Chair, 190 Baidauf, Fritz, 190 Beirise, Jean, 190 Bevelacqua, Aurelio, 190 Blake, Peter, 19 Burdick, Bruce, 12, 173 Burdick Group, 174–177 Capella Chair, 8 Castelli, Clino, 190 Century of Progress, 11 Chadwick, Don, 12, 155–157; and Aeron Chair, 157, 160; and Equa Chair, 156–157, 160;

Modular Seating, 158–159

Eames, Ray, 15

Chadwick, Gordon, 77

Edwards, Tom, 193

Chicago Merchandise Mart, 11

Equa Chair, 8, 152, 156–157 160, 163

De Pree, Dirk Jan (D. J.), 9

Ergon Chair, 8, 152, 163

De Pree, Hugh, 9, 12

Ethospace, 150, 152–153, 163, 165

De Pree, Max, 9

Evans Products, 16

Diamond, Freda, 190

Executive Office Group (EOG): Nelson, 11;

Dubrucq, Virginia, 190

Rohde, 127

Eames, Charles, 15; Philosophy, 19–21

Frykholm, Stephen, 178; picnic posters,

Eames, Charles and Ray, 11, 14–16 Eames furniture: abbreviations, 17–18; Aluminum Group, 62–65; chair bases, 35–37, 40; Chaise, 67; Elliptical Table, 10, 71; Folding Screen, 74; Hang– It–All, 75; LaFonda Table 69; Lounge Chair,58–62; Molded Plastic (Molded Fiberglass) Chairs, 10, 34–35,41–55; Molded Plywood Chairs, 22–25,28 – 32, 42, 55; Molded Plywood Children’s furniture, 26–27; Molded Ply–wood finishes, 17, 30; Molded Plywood Splints, 22; Molded Plywood Tables, 23,31–33; Production dates, 18; Segmented Base Tables, 69–71; Sofa Compact, 10, 39, 56–57; Soft Pad Group, 66; Soft Pad Sofa, 68; Storage Unit, 73; Tandem Sling, 67; Time–Life Chair, 65; Walnut Stool, 72; Wire Base Table, 10, 71; Wire Chairs, 36–39

180–189 Fuller, Buckminster, 19 Girard, Alexander, 11, 133–134; Environmental Enrichment Panels, 138–141; furniture, 136–137; textiles, 135 Girard, Susan, 134



The Designers of Herman Miller