One evening in the early 1930’s, Gilbert Rohde, Herman Miller’s first director of design, and founder D.J. De Pree were looking over photos of upscale New York City apartments. Something D.J. said caused Rohde to pause and take notice. What, he asked D.J., is the most important part of design? D.J. wasn’t sure. People, Rohde explained. Design should solve problems, and to do this, it must focus on people. D.J., early in his career, carried this lesson for the rest of his life.
In the annals of Herman Miller history, the name Gilbert Rohde is often overshadowed by those of Nelson and Eames—designers who openly acknowledged how they benefited from Rohde’s pioneering of modern design, both internally at Herman Miller and among the American people. Had Rohde not died suddenly of a heart attack at age 50, he would certainly have risen to greater heights.
This month, Rohde joins the ranks of Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss, and Eliot Noyes, as one of twelve industrial designers honored by United States Post Office with a series of stamps honoring the pioneers of American Design.