Profiling the Masters: George Nelson

“Design is a process. One starts with a need, a problem, and ends up with a design for a thing.” -George Nelson


Early in his storied career, Nelson was appointed director of design at Herman Miller, a position he held for almost 30 years. While there, he recruited other iconic modern designers, including Charles and Ray Eames and Isamu Noguchi.


The Herman Miller designers. From L to R: Robert Propst, Alexander Girard, George Nelson, D. J. De Pree (founder), Ray and Charles Eames. 

Nelson was famous for such pieces as the Coconut Chair, Marshmallow Sofa, and Ball Clock, all which depicted his playfulness and whimsy.


The Coconut Chair.

In addition to creating and directing design, George Nelson was a powerful writer and teacher. Throughout his career, he wrote several articles for publications like Pencil Points and lectured on the importance of design across the country.


Nelson at work.

One of the most inventive minds of his time, George Nelson had the rare ability to envision what was not yet there. He called his creative epiphanies a series of “zaps” – moments of spontaneous inspiration that allowed him to connect seemingly unrelated ideas in an innovative fashion.


The Marshmallow Sofa.

A pioneer of modern design, George Nelson’s innovative solutions and pieces have undoubtedly shaped design as we know it today.

All photo credit: Herman Miller.

Learn more about the masters of design here.

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