To celebrate the upcoming birthday of Herman Miller’s former design director and the creator of the Herman Miller Collection, we present this roundup of George Nelson’s artistry, life, and legacy — as told through notable books and Nelson designs.
1. “George Nelson: Architect/Writer/Designer/Teacher” A full-color, 352-page exhibition catalog from the first comprehensive retrospective of Nelson’s work at the Vitra Design Museum, including numerous and previously unpublished illustrations. Get it at Amazon.com.
2. Basic Cabinet Series Designed in 1946, the clean-lined beauty of the series is matched only by its functional versatility. Available in numerous configurations, the cabinets can be used alone or mixed and matched with others or with the dimensionally matched Platform Bench. Create your own series at HermanMiller.com.
3. “How to Wrap Five Eggs – Traditional Japanese Packaging” by Hideyuki Oka Illuminating a period before mass production, Nelson praised this book and its presentation of traditional, day-to-day Japanese packaging. In his words, “a totally unexpected monument to a culture, a way of life, a universal sensibility carried through all objects down to the smallest, most inconsequential, and ephemeral things.” Wrap it up at Amazon.com.
4. Swag Leg Desk + Chair The Nelson Swag Leg group possesses the perfect scale and function for a world of laptops and tablets. Its distinct swag styling — swaging is a process of bending and tapering metal tubes with pressure — remains fresh and modern 50 years later. Head over to HermanMiller.com to own them.
5. “How to See: Visual Adventures in a World God Never Made” by George Nelson Written by the designer himself and published in 1977, this well-illustrated primer guides the reader in understanding and decoding the meanings behind everyday visuals — architecture, art, industrial, product and graphic design — in the modern world. How to Buy: Amazon.com
6. Coconut Chair Residing in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, the Coconut Chair is perhaps the most unique slice of Nelson’s bountiful creativity, “relating everything to everything.” Striking in its shape and remarkably comfortable in its proportions, this iconic classic endures as a true original. Pluck one for yourself at HermanMiller.com
If you’re in the Detroit area this summer or fall, check out the retrospective, “George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher” sponsored by Herman Miller, at Cranbrook Art Museum, June 16 – October 14, 2012.
Photos: Linked to their sources within text