Design is not a science.
"Design is not science and never will be"
Not Playing Follow-the-leader
George Nelson, one of the founders of the modernism movement in America, once wrote that Herman Miller "is not playing follow-the-leader." Nelson obviously wasn't either. Not only was he a writer and editor who championed modern design in books and magazines—he was also one of the designers who came up with a sofa based on the shape of marshmallows.
Our commitment to the modern design was in its infancy when Nelson became our design director in 1945. But our belief in the modernism that Nelson so believed in was one reason that George Nelson & Associates worked with us for more than 25 years. Nelson worked with many of our other designers, as well as designing pieces of his own. The first design he brought to us was the Noguchi table, which we started producing in 1947.
Playing with Discs
The Marshmallow sofa began with a cold call. Nelson and Irving Harper, a young designer working in the Nelson firm, were approached by an inventor who had created an injection plastic disc that he believed could be produced inexpensively and would be durable. He had brought some of his discs with him, and the designers placed 18 of them in a variety of random arrangements on a steel frame to see how they might look.
The inventor's cushions turned out not to be workable, but Nelson and Harper were intrigued by the designs they had created so casually. Nelson liked to play. "Design is not a science," he said, "and never will be." Fiddling with the 18 10-inch disks, Nelson and Harper eventually joined the separate elements in a way that made them appear to float on air. The result was the whimsical piece of 1950s modernism we are proud to still be producing.
Oh, and that young designer, Irving Harper? He designed our company logo.