Stories From Herman Miller
August 14 – October 17, 2010
This exhibition explores the collaborative design process employed at Herman Miller, the world-renowned furniture company that used design to solve problems for the home and workplace for almost ninety years.
Herman Miller’s story is an interesting one. In 1909, D.J. De Pree, a recent high school graduate, took an office job at the Star Manufacturing Company based in Zeeland, Michigan, and worked his way up to become president in 1919. Star Manufacturing produced reproductions of Victorian and 18-century furniture which were distributed to major American retail stores such as Sears. The furniture, originally designed for the grand homes of wealthy European families, was oversized and ornately decorated with veneers, inlays and hand finishes.
In 1923, De Pree renamed the company the Herman Miller Furniture Company after his father-in-law. During the first few years, Herman Miller produced the same furniture that Star had. However, the Depression quickly brought the company close to bankruptcy. In 1931, De Pree hired Gilbert Rohde, a commercial artist and “modern” furniture designer from New York who convinced him that the designs of the future should utilize clean, simple lines—furniture that was easy to move and could accommodate changing American lifestyles. De Pree believed in Rohde’s vision, and the two men began a collaboration that created what we think of today as mid-century modern furniture.
De Pree’s openness to this new design thinking set the course for Herman Miller, a company that embraced collaborations with many innovative designers over the next several decades including Ray and Charles Eames, George Nelson, Alexander Girard, Robert Probst, Bill Stumpf, Don Chadwick, Ayse Birdsel, all of whom are represented in this exhibition. Good Design also showcases archival holdings of concept models, drawings, supplementary photographs and completed masterworks of design in furniture and decorative arts produced by Herman Miller, Inc. since the beginning.
Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller was organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art, Michigan, in collaboration with The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, through the support of Herman Miller, Inc.
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the Syracuse Center of Excellence and is made possible in part by Sedgwick Business Interiors.
Docent-led tours are available on Saturdays at 2.00pm. These tours are complimentary with exhibition admission, and no reservation is required.