This week’s Design for You prize is a signed copy of Steve Frykholm’s Lemonade poster (below). Here Frykholm and Clark Malcolm, who has been a writer and editor at Herman Miller for more than 20 years, chat about the company picnic that began the poster series, Lilliputians, the Peace Corp and how you decide to stop printing such iconic posters.
But first a bit of background: Frykholm, who is Herman Miller’s Creative Director, VP and recipient of the 2010 AIGA Medal, has been in charge of forming Herman Miller’s image and graphic identity over the past 40 years. One of the many tasks he took on was to design a poster every year for the company’s annual picnic. He produced 20 posters between 1970 to 1989.
Over the years the posters have won critical acclaim and been included in exhibitions and collections all over the world including the New York Museum of Modern Art, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Danish Museum of Decorative Art, and the Library of Congress. The posters often surface on Ebay fetching anywhere from a $150 to $700. While a full set of posters went for $7000 at a New York auction in 2009.
Steve Frykholm: They were a real event and that’s all caps. It was a big deal to the employees and their families. They hired me in February of 1970 and Joe Schwartz came in and said to me, ‘Now you are our first internal graphic designer could you design a poster for the picnic. Would you?’ And I said sure, it sounds like fun. He said, ‘Well the name of the picnic this year is sweet corn festival.’
CM: Why did they call it that?
SF: It was one of the few that had a name. But, you know, who was I to challenge it. I was the new kid on the block and I knew a little bit about screen-printing. They really just needed them to put up around the buildings. There was another designer working with me at the time, his name was Phil Mitchell. I said, ‘Why don’t we just do an ear of corn? I will stick it in my mouth and you draw it.’ So we did. And I cut the stencils and we had the screens made and printed them after hours down in the basement because the fumes were pretty intense coming from the ink.
Read on for the rest of the interview.