Mid-Century Master Alexander Girard Wins 2019 AIGA Medal
A new video celebrates the life and work of Alexander Girard
Written by: Amy Auscherman
Video by: James Casey of Dress Code
Alexander Girard: Architect of Modern Living
Tribute video celebrating Alexander Girard’s life and work.
In April of 2019, the AIGA posthumously honored Alexander Girard with its highest accolade, an AIGA Medal. We’re thrilled at the commendation, one that Girard earned in part for his vast corpus of design over the 21 years he spent at Herman Miller. Girard also joins the likes of Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Tomoko Miho, Steve Frykholm, and others as Herman Miller-affiliated designers who have won an AIGA medal.
Curbed editor-in-chief Kelsey Keith put it well in her AIGA tribute to Girard when she wrote:
“Alexander Girard was a designer who defied easy categorization, mostly because he worked—and excelled—in every field. Tireless, creative, and immersive, Girard was most comfortable when absorbed in a project, and he managed to complete a staggering catalog raisonné in his lifetime: houses, department stores, trendy restaurants, less trendy restaurants, logos, a terrazzo material, an airline, a folk art museum, even an imaginary land with its own language.”
The Girard Group, 1967.
It was as a textile designer that Girard made his most lasting impression on Herman Miller. He became head of the Herman Miller Textile Division in 1951 and designed over 300 textiles in a staggering host of colorways during his two-decade tenure. They’re so good that Maharam still makes many of them today.
Girard came to us by way of Nelson and the Eameses, who were as good as talent scouts as they were as designers. They were having a hard time finding textiles they found worthy enough to upholster their furniture and suggested to founder DJ De Pree that he hire their collaborator and friend. De Pree assented, Girard came on board, and as fine a textile output as you can imagine in the 20th century followed.
Though his graphic output in textiles alone could garner a medal, Girard worked across disciplines and his oeuvre includes multiple typefaces, graphic identities, retail stores, a full rebrand of Braniff Airlines, the interiors of the iconic Miller House, and the charming, graphic Environmental Enrichment Panels that so enlivened offices across the country.
Environmental Enrichment Panel with original typeface by Alexander Girard, 1972.
Alexander Girard in his Santa Fe, New Mexico studio, 1971.
Promotional mailer with specification options for the Girard Group, 1967.
Girard designed the monogramed seat cushions, napkins, and china, among other things, at the Miller House.
Above you’ll find an extended cut of the video tribute that our friends at Dress Code made for the AIGA’s celebration of Girard’s life and work. We invited Dress Code to our West Michigan headquarters to gather more footage to fully tell the story of what Alexander Girard has meant to Herman Miller and to the design world at large.