Next time you settle down in your family room, remember to thank George Nelson (1908–1986). When Nelson coauthored the book Tomorrow’s House in 1945, he described the now familiar family gathering spot, as well as a “storage wall,” solving specific design challenges for modern residences. George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher celebrates this iconic American designer whose ideas yielded numerous classics in American furniture and interior design. Organized by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, this first comprehensive retrospective of Nelson’s work incorporates over 120 three-dimensional objects, including benches, cabinets, chairs, clocks, desks, and lamps, as well as historical drawings, photographs, architectural models, and films. One of the most influential figures in mid to late 20th-century American design, Yale-educated Nelson was a widely respected writer and publicist, lecturer, exhibition curator, and a passionate photographer.
After D. J. DePree, president of furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, read Tomorrow’s House in 1945, he hired George Nelson first to create a line of furniture and eventually as the company’s design director. Nelson’s own New York firm, opened in 1947, produced furnishings and interior designs that became modern classics, including the Coconut Chair (1956), the Marshmallow Sofa (1956), the Ball Clock (1947) and the Bubble Lamps (1952 onwards). At Herman Miller, Nelson greatly influenced the product line and public image of the company for over two decades, revolutionizing American design and collaborating with modernist luminaries such as Henry Bertoia, Ray and Charles Eames, and Isamu Noguchi, to produce the most enduring pieces of the late 1940s and 1950s. In addition, Nelson set standards for all of Herman Miller’s activities, pioneering the areas of business communication and corporate image management. Characterized by classic simplicity and functionality, these designs remain deservedly popular today.
Explore the collaborative problem-solving design process employed at the world-renowned and West Michigan-based furniture company, Herman Miller, Inc. This exhibit uses drawings, models, prototypes, photographs, oral histories, and original designed objects to showcase the creation and evolution of many masterpieces of 20th and 21st century design by such artists as Gilbert Rohde, Ray & Charles Eames, George Nelson, Alexander Girard, Robert Propst, Steve Frykholm, Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick, and others.
Based in tiny Zeeland, Michigan, the company gave the world some of the most iconic objects of the century: Charles and Ray Eames’s molded plywood Lounge Chair, George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa and Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick’s Aeron Chair. Those works – and dozens of others – are at the heart of this exhibit. For these legendary designers, it wasn’t enough for furniture to be beautiful. It had to be practical. It had to make the workplace a better place.