Herman Miller – a century of 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.
Herman Miller and it’s key products timeline
- The Star Furniture Company is formed and in 1923 becomes the Herman Miller Furniture Company.
- Herman Miller debuts its Rohde-designed furniture at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.
- The Nelson platform bench is introduced.
- The Eames moulded plywood chair, moulded plywood lounge chair, moulded plywood folding screen and moulded plywood coffee table are introduced.
- The Isamu Noguchi designed glass-topped coffee table is launched.
- The world’s first moulded fibreglass chairs, designed by Charles and Ray Eames, are launched
- Eames storage units and wire base tables are introduced.
- The Eames elliptical table is introduced.
- Nelson bubble lamps are introduced.
- Girard wallpapers are introduced.
- Nelson pedestal tables and the Eames compact sofa are launched.
- Eames storage units are discontinued. They will be reintroduced in 1998.
- The Eames moulded plywood folding screen is discontinued. It will be reintroduced in 1994.
- George Nelson coconut lounge chairs and Eames stacking/ganging chairs are introduced.
- The Eames lounge chair and footstool are introduced.
- The Nelson marshmallow sofa is introduced.
- The Eames moulded plywood chair, moulded plywood lounge chair and moulded plywood coffee table are discontinued. They will be reintroduced in 1994.
- Eames aluminium group chairs are introduced.
- Eames walnut stools are introduced.
- Eames tandem sling seating is installed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
- The Eames elliptical table is discontinued. It will be reintroduced in 1994.
- The Nelson sling sofa is introduced.
- Eames dining tables are introduced.
- The marshmallow sofa is discontinued. It will be reintroduced in 1999.
- The Nelson platform bench is discontinued. It will be reintroduced in 1994.
- The Panton chair, a single-form, completely plastic chair is launched. It will be sold until 1975.
- The Eames chaise is introduced.
- Eames soft pad lounge chairs, executive tables and segmented base rectangular tables are introduced.
- The Noguchi coffee table is discontinued. It will be reintroduced in 1984.
- The Ergon chair is launched.
- The Equa chair, the Ethospace system and the Eames sofa are introduced.
- The Scooter stand is introduced.
- Ergon 2 chairs and Ethospace support cabinets are introduced.
- Herman Miller, Inc.introduces the Aeron chair.
- Ergon 3, Equa 2, and Ambi chairs are introduced.
- Arrio freestanding systems furniture is introduced.
- Herman Miller introduces Meinecke rugs, Eames storage units, and textiles by Alexander Girard.
- Herman Miller introduces Passage furniture, Aeron and Ambi side chairs, Accents Collection ergonomic support products and CLT tables.
- Herman Miller launches the Verve free-standing desk system in Europe.
- The Reaction work chair and the Aside side chair are launched.
- Herman Miller introduces the Kiva Collection, Caper chairs and Meridian 140 and 160 Series pedestals.
- Herman Miller for the Home introduces the Goetz sofa, and reintroduces the Nelson marshmallow sofa.
- Herman Miller introduces Mirra, a high-performing, environmentally advanced work chair.
- Herman Miller introduces the Celle chair designed by Jerome Caruso.
- Herman Miller introduces Leaf personal light, an energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) table-top light.
- Herman Miller introduces the Embody chair designed by Jeff Weber and the late Bill Stumpf
- Herman Miller introduces the Setu chair designed by Studio 7.5.
- Herman Miller introduces the Mirra 2 work chair.
- The Herman Miller Collection, in collaboration with the Eames Office, reintroduces the Eames Moulded Plastic Chair in fibreglass.
- Herman Miller introduces Renew, the latest in sit-to-stand tables.