George Nelson

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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George Nelson was one of the distinctly American voices working in modern design. By involving himself not just in architecture, but also in critical writing, furniture design and product design, he helped shape the entire climate of American design-related thought in the middle of the 20th century. He also pioneered new thinking on domestic functions and items including the concept of the "family room."

George Nelson and Herman Miller Furniture

Perhaps the most productive period in George Nelson's career, in terms of furniture design, was his tenure as director of design at Herman Miller. During this time, he produced many of his signature pieces, including the Coconut chair and the Platform bench. He also produced many innovative produce designs that were influenced by European fine artists, including the Marshmallow Sofa and the Ball Clock.

Besides having free reign to impose his own design aesthetic on Herman Miller, George Nelson was also responsible for engineering many important deals with other American designers. He brought in Isamu Noguchi and produced Noguchi's design for the glass-top coffee table. He was also involved in successful collaborations with Charles Eames, Donald Knorr, and Richard Schultz.

Nelson's early designs, especially those of the 1940s, such as the Platform Bench, use clean, slender lines and low profiles. Nelson also actively pursued a variety of materials, beginning with wood but expanding to textiles, metals, and plastics by the 1950s. He also expanded into environmental designs, producing designs for public spaces such as malls and offices.


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