Herman Miller

Herman Miller – a century of furniture design

Herman Miller is a company that harks back, over a hundred years but has always been forward thinking, placing great importance on great design and the stewardship and management of the natural resources on which it depends for its base materials.

Herman Miller inc was founded in Michigan USA in 1905 and first came to light as the Star Furniture Co. The company started off producing bedroom furniture in traditional revivalist styles but barely survived the financial depression of the 1930s.

When faced by the brutal economic reality of the 1930s, the company was forced by necessity to explore new products and design ideas, just to survive in what became a rapidly shrinking market.

This led to it reluctantly hiring Gilbert Rohde. He was a designer who specialized in modernist designs, which were a total contradiction to its traditionalist roots.

Thankfully for Herman Miller, Gilbert Rohde understood the public’s hunger for clean modern design, and as a result, the company successfully launched a catalogue full of modern designs at the Chicago Century of Progress exposition in 1933.

Having given the company its design identity and direction, Rohde who died in 1944, was followed in 1945 by the new design director, George Nelson.

Nelson was to have an enormous influence upon Herman Miller for the next forty years. not only for his inspired designs, but also for the exceptional talent he recruited to its ranks. These recruits included textilist Alexander Girard, Charles and Ray Eames, Robert Propst and Isamu Noguchi, to name but a few.

From the late 1940s, Herman Miller produce some of the world’s most iconic design pieces of modern furniture. These included the now classic, Noguchi table, the Eames Lounge Chair, the Sling sofa and the Marshmallow sofa.

The 1970s saw a second renaissance for the design company as new designers such as Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf, joined the design studio.

They subsequently went on as a design co-team, to design the Equa chair, and followed this in the 1990s, with their massive success, the Aeron chair.

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