Separate elements that appear to float

George Nelson and Irving Harper, a young designer working in Nelson’s design firm, were approached by an inventor who had created an injection plastic disc that he insisted could be produced inexpensively and would be durable. The designers took a look and arranged 18 of them on a steel frame—the origin of the Marshmallow sofa.

A vintage black-and-white photo of a woman with her feet up on a Nelson Marshmallow Sofa, viewed from behind.

The inventor’s cushions turned out to be impractical, but Nelson and Harper were intrigued by the design they had created so casually, and Herman Miller decided to manufacture the sofa.

By joining separate elements and making them appear to float on air, Nelson and Harper achieved this sofa’s unique appearance and eye-catching appeal, which led the way into the pop art style of the 1960s.

And by the way, that young designer—Irving Harper—also designed the famous Herman Miller company logo.

A black leather Nelson Marshmallow Sofa, viewed from the front.

“Design is not science and never will be.”

More about George Nelson

Product Designer George Nelson