May 30, 2011
Yesterday was George Nelson‘s birthday. The great designer, writer, thinker and collaborator became Herman Miller’s director of design in 1945. Nelson, who would have been 103, helped shape Herman Miller in the ’40s and ’50s working on every element of the business from the iconic logo we still use today to recruiting the likes of Ray and Charles Eames to design for the company.
I came across the portrait above by Californian artist Josie Portillo. She was inspired by a post on Nelson that appeared on the Amsterdam-based blog MidCenturyHome. I think Nelson would have gotten a kick out of the impact he is still having on the design community!
For more on Nelson David Foster has put a wonderful slideshow over on Discover. And don’t forget to check out our Discovering Design (the audio files are fascinating. You can hear Nelson discuss the Herman Miller logo and the origins of the wood slat bench).
And if you’re in San Antonio, Texas, the McNay museum will be exhibiting George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher beginning June 8.
Clockwise from top left: Four of George Nelson’s designs. The Swag Leg Chair, Platform Bench, Swag Leg Desk, Coconut Chair
February 17, 2011
Dear Aeron Chair,
How do you do it? I’m 5’2” and my hubby is 6’3”; and yet we can share our love of you equally. Who could cradle us better than you? You, who understand that a long term relationship requires a partner to be flexible, to roll with any situation, and to support even under stress. I can’t wait to celebrate our titanium anniversary.
Rebecca (and Mike)
Dear Roll-Top Desk and Chair,
I was six when I met you two in my father’s studio. With you I was high enough to look out the window and over the city. You shared your pencils and paper and I felt like I could be an artist or a teacher or an astronaut.
February 16, 2011
We’ve written about Discovering Design before – it’s a great collection of pictures, stories and video from the Herman Miller archives. I was particularly taken by the story behind Isamu Noguchi’s glass-topped table. I didn’t know he’d spent time in an internment camp or that there was an early version of the table that existed before George Nelson stumbled upon the design in Noguchi’s studio. Below you’ll find Noguchi’s words excerpted from his 1968 autobiography, A Sculptor’s World, which was rereleased in 2004.
“I went to Hawaii in 1939 to do an advertisement (with Georgia O’Keefe). As a result of this, I had met (T.H.) Robsjohn-Gibbings, the furniture designer, who had asked me to do a coffee table for him,” Noguchi remembered. “I designed a small model in plastic and heard no further before I went west.”
Noguchi with his wife Yoshiko (Shirley) Yamaguchi on the veranda of their house and his studio, Kita-Kamakura, Japan, ca. May–December 1952.
Noguchi was Japanese-American and going west refers to his internment in the Poston, Arizona, concentration camp during World War II. While he was interned, Noguchi said he was surprised to see a version of the small plastic model he had done for Robsjohn-Gibbings published as an advertisement for the English designer. “When, on my return, I remonstrated, he said anybody could make a three-legged table,” said Noguchi. “In revenge, I made my own variant of my own table.”
Noguchi and his wife standing outside Charles and Ray Eames’ house.
The “variant” Noguchi designed was used to illustrate an article, written by George Nelson, called “How to Make a Table.” Nelson had seen the table some months earlier at Noguchi’s studio. Dropping in to see his good friend, Nelson found him working on a piece he intended to give his sister for her birthday. Noguchi had cut a piece of scavenged glass for the top and made a base using two identical pieces of wood fitted together by a single pin. Nelson liked the organic shape. By 1947, the table became part of the Herman Miller product line. It reflects Noguchi’s belief that “everything is sculpture. Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space I consider sculpture.”
“To limit yourself to a particular style may make you an expert of that particular viewpoint or school, but I do not wish to belong to any school,” he said. “I am always learning, always discovering.”
The Noguchi Table with a cherry base.
Photo credits top to bottom: Noguchi at work via Vitra. Noguchi coffee table via Herman Miller Discovering Design. Noguchi and his wife via Unframe. Noguchi outside the Eames house via Architectural Ruminations.
February 15, 2011
Dear Nelson Swag Leg Work Table,
We’ve been together now for the past six months, and yet I still get butterflies when I see you standing there each morning. Sure, you’ve got great legs, but behind that walnut veneer lies a solid foundation—one upon which we shall surely write history together. Happy Valentine’s Day.
November 23, 2010
On November 4, the Art Directors Club inducted designer, architect, and author George Nelson posthumously into its Hall of Fame. Every two years the Club honors individuals who have made “significant contributions to art direction and visual communications, and whose lifetime achievements represent the highest standards of creative excellence.” The others inducted this year include Fabien Baron, creative director; Matthew Carter, typographer; and Brigitte Lacombe, photographer.
Nelson is a big part of Herman Miller’s history. He was director of design here from 1946–1971 and he designed many iconic pieces, including the coconut chair, the marshmallow sofa, and the platform bench. And we think his design philosophy—“total design is nothing more or less than a process of relating everything to everything”—is more relevant than ever.
If you’re in New York, you can see works by the new inductees free of charge at the ADC Gallery until November 23, 2010.
Nelson’s work is also part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.
First published on Discover.
October 19, 2010
At ICFF this year we launched the reissued Basic Cabinet Series – a very elegant storage solution designed by George Nelson.
When it launched originally, in 1946, the wooden cabinets met the needs of a generation who would come to embrace the clean modern lines of contemporary designers like Nelson and the Eames. Today we’ve relaunched the series because we recognize again a need for modular, hard-working designs that allow for a genuine flexibility. And also a desire for beautiful pieces that enhance the way we live. We think the cabinet series does all that!
May 15, 2010
While all the action may seem to be centered squarely on New York there are a number of online events all of you can participate in. Check out the George Nelson 5-drawer cabinet with door that we are auctioning off on EBAY. It’s sitting at $475 right now.
Also on EBAY you’ll find Operation Design’s painted Eames molded plywood chairs. I spotted them in the window at Barneys last night and if I can just find the right cord I can get the pics off my camera and onto the blog! (If anyone is here at ICFF with a cord that links a Canon camera to a Mac feel free to stop by.)
May 12, 2010
We don’t usually flag items on EBAY for you. But we’ve posted this piece! It’s the Nelson Cabinet (BCS 3440.LWA2U), constructed of solid wood with walnut finished veneer, black wood legs and aluminum pulls. And it is part of the soon-to-be-reintroduced line of 1949 George Nelson Basic Cabinet Series (BCS). The unit has a bank of 5 drawers with wooden slides (original detail) and one door with two adjustable interior shelf that can be positioned in three locations. The size is 34” height x 40”wide x 18.5” deep. Shipping within North America is included free.
This particular piece also contains a reproduction of George Nelson’s signature, as well as the production date (May 2010) hand printed inside the top drawer. It also comes with a certificate of authenticity signed and dated by the Herman Miller Classics Product Manger and Design Facilitator.
All proceeds from this auction will go to the newly formed George Nelson Foundation (stay tuned for more on the Foundation).
May 11, 2010
You will be hearing much more about this Series very soon. We’re launching it at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York at the end of the week. I’ll be there blogging live from the event.
But for all you impatient Nelson fans here is a sneak peek of the Nelson Basic Cabinet Series. The modular storage solutions were designed by George Nelson, Herman Miller’s Director of Design from 1945-1972. A select group of items from the Series are being reintroduced plus a metal leg option for the Platform Bench. Come visit us at ICFF (Javits Convention Center, May 15-18) to see the new pieces.
April 16, 2010
Herman Miller was spotted all over the place this week. We’d love to see what you come across in your travels. Seen any Eames chairs lately? Stumbled across a Yves Behar Leaf Light? George Nelson Swag table anyone? If you’d like to share your finds with us you can reach me at email@example.com or just leave a link in the comments section and I will follow it up.
1. Eames Lounge Chair on Design Hotels’ blog.
2. Totally Severe’s Feral Furniture desktop wallpaper includes a rather angry Eames Lounge.
3. Le Blog posted this painted Eames chair.
4. Where to start on this one! The whole house is packed with Herman Miller gems. It’s always interesting to see how people mix Herman Miller pieces into their homes. Via Twenty First Century Retro.
5. The George Nelson bench included in a Top 5 Classic Pieces roundup on His Name is RobZ.