George Nelson

Designer Dossier

Designer: George Nelson
From: Hartford, Connecticut

The designs of George Nelson, widely considered to be one of the founders of American Modernism, are defined by clean, thoughtful lines, bold accents, and a dash of whimsy. Nelson was a master at creating both classic neutral pieces that are timeless and practical and playful, colorful items that add life and personality to a room. His designs make up a beloved chapter of American design history.George Nelson studied architecture at Yale University, but architecture and design were not his only skills. He used his ability as a writer and journalist to gain access to the designers he admired while working for "Pencil Points" and "Architecture" magazines, writing about greats such as Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti.

Always an innovator, in the early 1940s he introduced the world to the concepts of the storage wall and the family room in the book Tomorrow's House — two ideas that remain very much a part of the world of interior design today. It was the innovation and progressive ideas presented in the book that would, several years later, land him the position of director of design at Herman Miller when the company wanted to increase the usefulness and practicality of their products.

While at Herman Miller, he had the opportunity to work on some wonderfully innovative projects and ideas — although one design in particular, though incredibly efficient and revolutionary at the time, was not a work he was proud of: the AO II - AKA, or office cubicle.

Said Nelson of the project:

One does not have to be an especially perceptive critic to realize that AO II is definitely not a system which produces an environment gratifying for people in general. But it is admirable for planners looking for ways of cramming in a maximum number of bodies, for "employees" (as against individuals), for "personnel," corporate zombies, the walking dead, the silent majority. A large market.

Facts:
• Conceived the idea of the pedestrian shopping mall
• Created the first modular storage system in the form of the Storagewall
• Was the director of design at Herman Miller from 1946 - 1972
• During his time as director of Herman Miller, Nelson designed the first L shaped desk
• Nelson felt strongly about conservation of the environment and stated that his goal as a designer was "to do much more with much less."

Attended:
• Yale University; he received a degree in Architecture in 1928 and a Fine Arts degree in 1931.

Known for: Strong lines, playful designs and major innovations

Quote: Nelson said that designers must be "aware of the consequences of their actions on people and society and thus cultivate a broad base of knowledge and understanding."

Nelson on the Web:
Wikipedia
DWR
Herman Miller
George Nelson

TOP ROW:
1. The Marshmallow Sofa (1956) was a happy accident that occurred when Nelson was commissioned to design a new kind of cushion. The cushion he aimed to make never worked out, but the Marshmallow Sofa has gone on to become a classic. Via DWR.
2. The 1/2 Nelson Lamp pivots to allow control over direction of the light. Via (1950) 1st Dibs.
3. The Fernando the Fish Wall Clock (1965) was designed as part of a pet themed trio of clocks. Also in the collection: Omar the Owl and Talulah the Toucan. Via DWR.
4. The Platform Bench (1946) is a frequently copied classic piece. Via 1st Dibs.
5. The Coconut Chair (1955) was inspired by the shape of Eero Saarinen's Kresge Auditorium at MIT. Via DWR.

BOTTOM ROW:
6. The paper covered Ball Pendant (1947) was designed to be a more affordable version of a lamp Nelson admired that was cloaked in silk. Via DWR.
7. According to DWR, The Eye Clock (1957) turns "the human eye into a figurative composition of geometric forms. The clock is at once playful and sophisticated — a combination for which Nelson is well known. Able to be hung vertically or horizontally, the Eye Clock's size does not preclude its use in smaller homes and offices." Via DWR.

(Images: as linked above)

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