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.
The term “legendary” is not taken lightly in the Midwest, but that’s how the president of the Ad Club of West Michigan referred to Steve Frykholm when she announced in February that he’d won their prestigious Silver Medal award for his “outstanding contributions” to the advertising and marketing industry.
Frykholm is largely responsible for creating Herman Miller’s image and graphic identity over the past 40 years, producing some of its most memorable promotional and marketing pieces.
“Steve’s perspectives are so fresh and so honest,” says Beth Taylor with the Holland ad agency Fairly Painless. “Within every design solution lies a new way of thinking.”
When he joined Herman Miller in 1970, he had no intention of sticking around. But he liked the company and he liked the work. “I believe in the products we make and design,” he states, adding, “When you promote stuff, it’s nice to promote stuff you believe in.”
His design approach, he says, is rooted in solving problems: “Did it solve a problem in a creative, imaginative authentic, original way? And is it memorable?”
Perhaps most memorable are the now-iconic “picnic” posters he did for the company in the 70s and 80s; they’re currently fetching up to $500 on eBay.
That same artistic sensibility can be found in all things corporate, including his annual reports. Still, even he was amazed recently when a faculty member at a university where he was speaking asked him to autograph one such report—from 1994.
Frykholm’s work has been published and exhibited around the world; his posters are in the collections ranging from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design to the Library of Congress. He’s won graphic design and communications awards from the AIGA, the New York Art Directors Club, American Center for Design, Communication Arts, Graphis, and Print.
In 2006, he became the first Michigan graphic designer to receive the American Institute for Graphics Arts Fellow Award.
Looking back on his career he says he’s never regretted his decision to stay. “Herman Miller trusted designers; that’s why I’ve been able to do what I’ve done.”
His advice to up and coming legends: “Stay true to yourself and do the work you like to do.”
The AAF West Michigan has 143 members, and serves more than 1,000 West Michigan industry professionals who buy, sell, create or produce services or products related to advertising.
By Keasha Palmer
Profile of Steve Frykholm on Silver Medal page of Ad Club’s website
Graphic designer credits ‘great legacy’ at Herman Miller Mark Sanchez, Business Review Western Michigan, Thursday February 19, 2009
Marketing is a picnic for Herman Miller creative director Shandra Martinez, The Grand Rapids Press, Tuesday, February 24, 2009