Sunday, December 6, 2009

Herman Miller: Good Design

Sometimes in the course of taking a college class you are forced to do things that you would not normally enjoy. Unfortunatly our assignment this week was one of those occasions. Normally I would not say this, as I feel very fortuante to have been able to vist the many different places around the Twin Cities this fall. This week I went to the Goldstein Museum on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. There I saw an exhibit holding the work of Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, and Herman Miller. These people are all designers and are very well known for their furniture.

In particular the work of Charles and Ray Eames standardized what we now consider affordable and easily reproducable furniture. The item you would likely be the most familiar with is the fiberglass shell chair. This chair is one continuous piece of plastic, and comes in many different colors. It was very popular in the 70's and can still be found in many homes today. They are well known for designing furniture that flows. Many of the parts are rounded and most often are made of one piece. They figured out how to bend plywood without it splintering by carving holes and lines into it.

George Nelson was another designer on display there. He got his start writing for architecture magazines but was eventually noticed by Herman Miller and brought in to do consulting work. He helped design ergonomic work environments and office spaces. As I was walking through this display I kept thinking to myself, "these are the people who started the cublicle". All around were the desks, chairs, and walls you have become familiar with in any office. I kept imagining scenes from the TV show The Office.

Herman Miller is the man who started it all. Known for designing what we now know as modern furniture, he made his mark in the office world. His company put out a chair that is called Aeron and is what almost everyone would be familiar with as an office chair. Adjustable arms, seat, back, and height this chair was for everyone. Ergonomics was very important while having an attractive seat. Herman Miller was quoted as saying "Everyone deserves a good chair". The company he started in the 1940's has persisted through today. Many people go there to learn and to work.

While in the show there were three different items that caught my eye. The first was the "marshmallow sofa" by George Nelson. This is a couch made of round blue pieces all held together by metal rods. It looks like the round cushions are just floating in air in the shape of a couch. Very neat looking. The second was the Aeron chair. It looks like a very futuristic version of the office chairs I see at work and school. Also, you could sit in it and it was very comfortable. Lastly I saw a large wooden desk near the entrance of the exhibit. This was also designed by George Nelson and was meant to be a type writer desk. It was very nicely made and had edges that curved together. You could see that it was made from several different types of wood, as they were all different colors.

Overall this was not a very interesting experience. I feel that I now know the history behind both office furniture and where the cheap furniture we buy at Target comes from. The process is very streamlined and allows for many products to be made. If you like architecture or modern interior design this would be an interesting place for you to visit. Other wise, there may not be much there for you.

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