A traveling design exhibition, Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller, opened this week at the Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA). Showing through November 8, the exhibition will subsequently tour as many as 15 American cities into 2013. Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller explores the collaborative problem-solving design process employed at Herman Miller.
MMA Executive Director Judith A. Hayner’s long-standing interest in modern design sparked a dream of showcasing original designed artifacts along with their drawings and prototypes. This exhibition is the fruition of her goal. MMA, in collaboration with The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan, draws upon that institution’s Herman Miller Design Collection—a comprehensive archive of the company’s innovative processes and products.
“With Herman Miller operating in our back yard,” Hayner says, “it is important for the Museum to hold up and examine the process of design as its been practiced in West Michigan for nearly eight decades. We decided to focus on case studies that explore design problems and solutions created by some of the talented artists who have created masterpieces of modern design for the company, and continue to do so today.”
The case studies—or “stories”—were chosen to embody four different active characteristics of “good design,” as a result of the problem-solving ethos of Herman Miller:
Ergonomics (Seating) – Good Design Explores
White Collar Work (Action Office) – Good Design Inquires
Graphic Communications – Good Design Engages
Mid-Century Classics – Good Design Endures
Guest curator John R. Berry, explains the organization of the exhibition: “Each object grouping started with identifying a need—to furnish a new type of living space, for healthier seating, to effectively communicate a message, or to support new kinds of work.” The inspiration for the exhibition came from his recent book, Herman Miller: The Purpose of Design.
The exhibition 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.
By Marcia Davis