Design, What's Up
October 22, 2012
Steve Frykholm joined Herman Miller in 1970 as the company’s first internal graphic designer. Forty-two years later—with numerous awards and recognitions, and his designs now part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection—he’s still at it.
What’s the secret? Frykholm has found, that “it’s the breaks that allow my mind to refresh and regenerate. If I have a design problem that I haven’t quite solved, something just snaps and I might have an ah-ha.” That snap could come while he’s taking care of his horses, enjoying the ballet, or while simply gazing at the stars from his Michigan farm.
Frykholm is the first to admit the creative process isn’t easy and that not all ideas are winners, but when they are—as his iconic picnic posters illustrate—the results can make the world a nicer place to be.
Check out Steve Frykholm’s contribution to Why Design, a new video series featuring stories from Herman Miller’s creative network. There are eight videos in total, with a new one debuting every Monday. Next week is design team Sam Hecht and Kim Colin.
August 25, 2011
Steve Frykholm has been a graphic designer for Herman Miller for over 40 years and has produced some of our most memorable graphic campaigns. Frykholm recently designed a poster to promote REACH and we’re thrilled he’ll be presenting a talk as a one of the special guest speakers on his very first visit to Hong Kong.
Could you tell us about the poster you designed for REACH in Hong Kong.
I really wanted the poster to have a strong connection between China and Herman Miller. The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is a strong symbol for Herman Miller, and a panda is a strong image for China. After doing my sketch of a panda relaxing in a lounge chair I knew it would be a strong poster. I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed designing it.
The George Nelson led graphic design campaigns must have been a hard act to follow. How have those who’ve come before you influenced your work?
Charles and Ray Eames and the designers who worked for them and George Nelson gave me a wonderful legacy of exceptional work. I believe their work established an atmosphere at Herman Miller to do original and creative work. That’s the kind of work I enjoy doing, so it wasn’t a hard act to follow. Rather than being intimidating, I was energized.
Design, What's Up
August 19, 2011
We’re passionate about design. Whether it’s ergonomic seating, graphic design, or something for our employees. We think about it; we design it–it’s part of who we are.
We’re also pretty passionate about cycling. So, in 1999, when a group of avid cyclists, including our current CEO Brian Walker, began discussing the idea of creating a special Herman Miller bike jersey, design quickly entered the discussion.
Since then, nine Herman Miller jerseys have been created. And much like our picnic posters, each designer had their own theme. Inspiration came from bike components and accessories, Herman Miller products, diabetes awareness, and even beet juice. Each one was designed to be eye-catching, because when you’re on the road, the last thing you want to do is blend in.
Designing the jerseys were always a fun project, but clothing was a new experience. “The tricky thing is to create one design that looks as good on a [size] small as it does on a XXL,” said graphic designer Martin Burch, who designed the first several jerseys.
The jerseys have become a part of the Herman Miller spirit. Our creative director, Steve Frykholm, put it best, “It’s fun to see someone wearing one on the road. It’s like seeing one of our trucks, it gets you kind of excited.”
If you’re in the West Michigan area, come join us for the Herman Miller Grand Cycle Classic. You’re guaranteed to see a few of our jerseys on the course.
May 2, 2011
Steve Frykholm poses with his students in Aba, Nigeria, 1966.
“Do what I did and join the Peace Corps,” was Steve Frykholm’s answer when asked what advice he had for students. “It was a great experience,” he continued, “I have been working for 41 years. What was two years out of my life? I learned a lot. It helped my self-esteem. It helped my confidence. It also taught me screen-printing. If I hadn’t been in the Peace Corps would I have done [the picnic] posters?”
Wow, Steve Frykholm, whose work is highly regarded and on display in MOMA, may have never learned the skill that made him famous if he had not lived in Africa. What is two years? For Steve, it focused his interest and started his career.
I had a similar experience, having spent a long time living in Japan, and would agree with Steve. The experience I gained was invaluable and really helped me to better understand who I am–I am a much better person for that.
Steve’s advice was great. Really, what is two years in the whole scheme of things? I wish more students would challenge themselves to experience something different. Sometimes you have to leave everything you know to discover who you are.
April 29, 2011
Self-proclaimed “Geezer”, Steve Frykholm, recently spent an evening with friends, colleagues, and admirers reflecting on his 41 years creating the visual identity of Herman Miller.
Not wanting to lecture, Steve invited guests to choose (read: shout-out) the topics that they would like to hear him talk about. Among the areas covered were the “Get Real” campaign, the history and process behind the famous picnic posters, his favorite rejected ideas, an obsession with cows, and his passion for photographing wildflowers.
Steve’s trademark warm and honest wit was clearly evident in his work, and the mark he has made at Herman Miller is clear.
I hope you enjoy Steve’s work as much as I did.
Photo: Sean Bolan
April 12, 2011
Last Thursday night, in the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street in Manhattan, the glitterati of the graphics world gathered to honor two companies and three individuals. The American Institute of Graphic Arts awarded our Herman Miller colleague and graphic design superstar Steve Frykholm its Gold Medal. This award recognized Steve for a lifetime of achievement, much of it on Herman Miller’s behalf. His leadership and spirit have shaped Herman Miller’s graphics for 40 years. Now he joins a list of every other noted graphic designer I’ve ever heard of.
The AIGA also honored Tiffany & Co. and Method for corporate achievement. Two other Gold Medals went to John Maeda and Jennifer Morla. Steve was in good company and good form. He and his wife, Nancy Phillips, beamed the entire evening.
Herman Miller Journal, What's Up
April 14, 2010
Last week, Herman Miller’s own creative director, Steve Frykholm, was named one of three recipients of the 2010 AIGA Medal–the highest honor of the graphic design profession. It’s awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services, or other contributions to the field of design and visual communication. Along with John Maeda and Jennifer Morla, Steve will be presented with the award at the AIGA Design Legends Gala in 2011.
AIGA executive director Richard Grefé said, “AIGA is proud to recognize the 2010 Medalists for their exceptional contributions to the field of design. Each has contributed to the way design can intrigue the spirit, engage curiosity, enhance business, explore creative use of visual technique, and communicate value that is respected by business, society and our popular culture.”
Steve has directed Herman Miller’s graphic identity for 40 years. His iconic work has been widely published and exhibited at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and the Danish Museum of Decorative Art.
As Cheryl Heller, chair of the AIGA awards committee, noted, “Each Medalist this year is completely unique, yet all three are stellar examples of how to be a true leader and live a life in design.”
Unique? That’s what we love about Steve. Stellar? Definitely. At Herman Miller, Steve Frykholm is as iconic as his picnic posters. We’re honored to have him here.
Design, Herman Miller Journal
November 3, 2009
As head of Herman Miller’s creative crew, Steve Frykholm has shaped the company’s image for nearly 40 years and won plenty of recognition for it. But his love of poster making began with a stint in Aba, Nigeria, where he worked in the Peace Corps. The journey his posters took eventually landed them in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Herman Miller Journal
May 8, 2009
Earlier this year, Herman Miller’s Creative Director and VP Steve Frykholm was honored with the West Michigan advertising community’s Silver Medal Award, a career-achievement honor for those who have made outstanding contributions to the advertising and marketing industry.