George Nelson

GEORGE NELSON (1908 - 1986) is regarded as one of the most important figures in American design. Active as an architect, a product and exhibition designer, and a writer, Nelson was a leading voice in the discourse on design and architecture over several decades.

Nelson studied architecture at Yale University and also studied abroad at the American Academy in Rome. In 1935, Nelson became associate editor of the magazines Architecture Forum and Fortune, and the next year he was running his own architectural practice in New York with William Hamby. The firm closed with the United States entry into World War II, and during the war Nelson supplemented his magazine work by teaching architecture at Columbia University.

Through his writing, Nelson came to the attention of D.J. De Pree, president of the Michigan-based furniture manufacturer Herman Miller. Designing his first collection in 1945 and appointed design director in 1947, Nelson quickly expanded his purview and transformed the company. Confirming De Pree’s early assessment of Nelson as someone “thinking well ahead of the parade,” he redesigned everything from Herman Miller’s product line to its graphics and marketing and advertising materials. Over the course of his long association with Herman Miller, Nelson designed hundreds of pieces of furniture and recruited other designers, including Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi, now all widely acknowledged as some of the brightest talents of the time.

(Image Credit: Vitra; Source: Vitra + George Nelson Foundation)