Personality in Action
A Career in Color
As director of design for Herman Miller’s textile division from 1952 to 1973, Alexander Girard produced a portfolio of more than 300 textile designs. Every item he created, from prints and wallpapers to furniture and objects, reflected his love of vivid color, pattern, and abstract and geometric form. Beginning in 1971, he took on what would be the last project in his portfolio for Herman Miller: a series of decorative panels for Action Office, the world’s first open-plan furniture system.
Upping the Originality
The brainchild of Robert Propst, then-president of Herman Miller Research Corporation, the groundbreaking Action Office system transformed the concept of office design. Its streamlined, reconfigurable components and rethinking of traditional office furniture broke the mold—and became wildly successful. It was no surprise, then, that Herman Miller would consult a creative mind like Girard’s to push the system’s innovative spirit to the next level.
An Injection of Life
To give the Action Office environments more personality and a touch of human warmth, Girard developed a series of screen-printed graphics on fabric called Environmental Enrichment Panels. The playful, colorful panels were large and flat—made to define spaces, brighten walls, and hang from ceilings and on doors. Their stand-alone motifs ranged from abstract designs, hearts, and plant life to gatherings of stars, portraits of people, and a peering pair of eyes. In contrast to Propst’s spare and efficient designs, Girard’s 40 eclectic pieces of artwork brought depth, vibrancy, and a jolt of emotion to the office. As a final contribution to the company he worked with for 21 years, Girard’s joyous designs served as an exclamation point for his long, legendary tenure with Herman Miller.