Eames

Herman Miller: A Way of Living

Every once in a while, I purchase a book based on the reviews I’ve read and fully expect the actual product to not live up to the hype. Usually, it’s that thing where my expectations were inflated due to glowing reviews that tout the quality of the layouts, the editorial, photography and more. With my recent purchase of “Herman Miller: A Way of Living” I have to say the reviews were spot on. (Amazon has this for about $20.00 less)

This book chronicles more than 100 years of Herman Miller’s history and the key events that have made it a cultural icon. Broken out into 10 chapters, the book creates a timeline that highlights key achievements, people, and events that have made the Herman Miller company the powerhouse that it is today.

Thanks to exhaustive research done by Herman Miller archivist Amy Auscherman, Sam Grawe and Leon Ransmeier the book is 614 pages of history, illustrations, photography, and essays that add up to a comprehensive history that in my opinion is the best book on Herman Miller to date.

Auscherman, Grawe and Ransmeier, spent the better part of four years combing the design collections at the Vitra Design Museum, UCLA Libraries, the Eames Office, Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation included for Herman Miller-related documents, photographs, archives, and illustrations for the new book and it paid off. They have gone into historic detail that not only delves into the company history but the influence that the products, architecture, and people brought to Herman Miller culture over the last 100 years.

The 10 chapters that go in-depth on everything from key figures in the company’s history (Nelson, Eames, Girard, Frykolm) to pivotal moments in popular culture that shaped Herman Miller’s trajectory, this book is the summation of Herman Miller’s existence thus far—the most expansive one to date.

“Even the nerdiest nerds and Herman Miller fans and people who have spent their whole working life at the company will have something to learn from this book,” she says. “I sit in this interesting position at the company where I kind of know the genesis of ideas that have proliferated and made the company what it is today. These ideas have been revisited and refined over and over again—not in a bad way. Usually, people aren’t coming up with something totally new, but they’re new iterations on something that’s already existed and making it better.”

Amy Auscherman

The book covers everything from furniture design, advertising materials, design research, human factors company culture, textile development and more. Each section or chapter is prefaced with an in-depth essay on the influence that this portion had on the company as it grew from a small Michigan based furniture manufacturer into an international powerhouse.

The Value of Good Design

If I only had a few extra days of vacation and a few extra dollars to spend I know what I’d be visiting in the next couple of weeks. MoMa’s “The Value of Good Design” exhibit that is currently up through June 15th. The video below is a fun two-minute look at some of the design and designers featured and some of the more iconic pieces in the show. If you’re in New York or headed there soon, this would be well worth a visit.

Featuring objects from domestic furnishings and appliances to ceramics, glass, electronics, transport design, sporting goods, toys, and graphics, The Value of Good Design explores the democratizing potential of design, beginning with MoMA’s Good Design initiatives from the late 1930s through the 1950s, which championed well-designed, affordable contemporary products. The concept of Good Design also took hold well beyond the Museum, with governments on both sides of the Cold War divide embracing it as a vital tool of social and economic reconstruction and technological advancement in the years following World War II. This global scope is reflected in many of the items on view, from a mass-market Italian Fiat Cinquecento automobile and a Soviet-era East German Werra camera to a Japanese poster for a Mitsubishi sewing machine and a Brazilian bowl chair. These works join both iconic and unexpected items made in the US, such as the Eames La Chaise, a Chemex Coffee Maker, and Irwin Gershen’s Shrimp Cleaner.

“These details are not accents or quirks, they are evidence of quality.”

In the short film below for Herman Miller, Dress Code focuses on the production of the iconic Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman that has been in constant production since 1956. The video documents the visual account of the chair being manufactured, and simultaneously reveals the ethos of Herman Miller’s design principals and process. In two minutes the viewer is presented with lush visuals, and solid narrative that embodies not only the Eames Lounge Chair, but everything Herman Miller produces. The flow, cadence, and visual treatment of the short reads more like a tribute, and less like an ad. This is a great example of an emerging form of online content that feels more engaging and genuine than a typical 30 second spot on TV. Hat tip to Herman Miller for commissioning, and to Dress Code for a great production.

“These details are not accents or quirks. These details are not the details, they are evidence of quality.”

Simply Bent. Cowrie from Made in Ratio.

Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated with furniture made from bent plywood. I think it comes from the fact that my grade school had so many Eames molded plywood chairs through out the building. Yes back in the day, before they became a coveted purchase from Design Within Reach, the Eames chair was pretty utilitarian. Beautiful, but affordable and utilitarian. This morning I was checking email, and a friend of mine had sent me a link to the “Cowrie Chair” designed by Brodie Neil, and built by Made in Ratio.

This stunning piece of furniture was inspired by the concave lines of sea shells, and requires an innovative process to build. A process that is a blend of digital technology, and handmade processes. The end result is a continuous flowing form from a single surface of Ash plywood. The chair is deceivingly simple and elegant with a feeling of pleasant continuity from the geometry of form.

Is it to late to add this to my Christmas wish list?

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