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.


My Top Design Posts for 2010.

As 2010 winds down I got to thinking about all the great design work that I saw and posted about this year. One of my blog posts that generated some of the highest traffic  this year was “Some of the Best of Design For 2009“. Because of the popularity of that article, I have decided to post a best of for 2010 made up from design content that got the most traffic over the last 365 days. I have included everything from industrial design to motion graphics, and I have tried to limit it to less than 20 items.

Each item is shown below in no particular order. They are all within 3 or 4 total views of each other. Below each image or video is a link to the original article, so you can read the original posts if you want. I know that not writing a summary about each item is kind of a cop-out, but it’s been a long year and my fingers are tired of typing. So if you want to know more, you’ll have to click-through to the original.

1. House of Micha Lamps

Original Article

2. Phaidon Design Classics iPad Edition

Original Article

3. Norburn Model Aircraft Flying Business Card

Original Article

4. Argentina Bicentennial Graphics

Original Article

5. Move It Box Mover by David Warwick

Original Article

6. Landscape Forms Bench

Original Article

7. Panasonic Headphones Packaging

Original Article

8. Jeep Grand Cherokee TV Commercial, by

Weiden and Kenned

Original Article

9. Coens Plamp

Original Article

10. Element iPad stand

Original Article

11. David Riesenburg OO Projector

Original Article

12. Peter Dudas Hybrid Bike

Original Article

13. Revolutionair Turbine by Philippe Stark

Original Article

14. Team Ferrari Logo

Original Article

15. Jarod Gibson Movie Posters

Original Article

Design Friday. Phaidon Design Classics, iPad Edition.

Forgive me for condensing and combining but after writing 60 in-depth Design Friday posts in the last year it’s getting harder to find the time to research and document. So this is a Design Friday post and an ebook/iPad app review rolled into one.

ebooks are a huge business that will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and with the introduction of the iPad true potential of what ebooks can be is here. One thing that I have noticed though, is a lack of well designed ebooks for the iPad. Most are a simple port of the original paper book to ebook format. So when I discovered that Phaidon was releasing Phaidon Design Classics, I got just a wee bit excited. The digital ebook edition of Design Classics is a bit pricey, coming in at $19.99 but I decided to bite the bullet and make the purchase.

If you are familiar with the original books, Phaidon Design Classics is one of those amazing sets of books that are hard to forget once you have seen them in a bookstore. Especially if you are a designer. For most people the print version of these books are too expensive to purchase. The series encompasses 3 large volumes that cost about $175.00. So the chance to get the entire set for 19 bucks was much easier to take. Now let’s get into the app itself.

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The ebook interface is really pretty intuitive. There are basically two modes for viewing, one that allows you to swipe through the pages and sections exploring the book, and another that lets the reader do a keyword search. When you are exploring the book, images move through the screen at various sizes allowing you to pick out objects. The one drawback here is a lack of speed control. It would have been nice if you could control the speed of the animation by tilting the iPad, or slowing it with your finger. Keyword searching is very straight forward, and when you make your selection the image comes up full screen with all supporting text when you touch the screen. When available the page features a side bar with additional images. In addition to the visual exploration mode, the reader can filter categories and designers. The application also supports a cover flow style of browsing which really enhances the way the ebook feels. This ebook is presented in a beautifully rendered, 3D environment, with exquisite layouts that take advantage of the large Multi-Touch screen and advanced capabilities of iPad. The objects are organized chronologically, easily accessible via a timeline at the bottom of the screen. Material contained in the application includes archival photographs, original sketches, patents, prototypes and informative text with precise information about the product, designer, manufacturer and the object’s historical context.

The design of the application works well for a book that is heavy on photography, and could work well for any other number of ebooks. What would have been really nice would have been the inclusion of interviews with the designers, VR clips of the objects, and additional content that extends the original book even further beyond the print experience.

This set of books is one of the most comprehensive collections of design classics available in both print and digital formats. Authoritative and meticulously researched, this collection charts the history of product design over the past 200 years. Phaidon took years to make this and the book was compiled via rigorous selection process by an international panel of design-world insiders, including architects, critics, curators, product designers, auctioneers, and historians.

The iPad ebook version of Phaidon Design Classics offers, access to an encyclopedic, illustrated history of 1,000 timeless design classics by not only renowned designers, such as Marcel Breuer, Achille Castiglioni, Le Corbusier, Jasper Morrison, Dieter Rams, Eero Saarinen, and Philippe Starck but also anonymously designed pieces that have stood the test of time and had a major influence on the design world.

This volume covers everything from cars to chairs, from tableware to cameras, from toys to airplanes, the application features products that are most often still in production today, largely unchanged since their creations.

I have to say that this is an essential design resource with extraordinary value for anyone who appreciates great design. Having it on the iPad and with me most of the time is great. It is my understanding that the $19.99 price point is a limited introductory price, so if you want it, get it now.

Design Friday. Alan Fletcher.

You might not know his name, but chances are you’ve seen his work. Alan Fletcher was one of the most celebrated and prolific British designers of the Twentieth Century.

Fletcher was one of the most influential figures in post World War 2 British graphic design. His fusion of the cerebral European tradition with North America’s emerging pop culture and the formulation of his distinct approach made him a pioneer of independent graphic design in Britain during the late 1950s and 1960s.

A founding member of Pentagram, Fletcher helped to develop a model of combining commercial partnerships with creative independence. Fletcher also developed some of the most memorable graphic design of the era, notably the identities of Reuters and the Victoria & Albert Museum,

Born in Kenya in 1931, Fletcher moved to England at the age of five after his father became terminally ill. He was raised by his mother and grandparents in west London, growing up during World War 2. Like most children of the era Fletcher attended Christ’s Hospital, a boarding school in Horsham, where like his fellow classmates he was destined for a career in the army, the church or banking. But at the point where Fletcher had to make a choice about his career path, he chose a different route, opting out of the rigid groove of post-war British middle class life and took up a place at Hammersmith School of Art.

During the 1950s Fletcher attended four different design schools, each one more cosmopolitan than the last. Fletcher left Hammersmith for the livelier environment of the Central School, where he found himself in class with his future partners Colin Forbes and Theo Crosby as well as such other future luminaries as Derek Birdsall and Ken Garland. After graduating from the Central School, Fletcher spent a year abroad teaching English in Barcelona and then won a coveted place at the Royal College of Art, where his contemporaries included the artists Peter Blake and Joe Tilson. His tenure with the Royal College of Art lasted three years, at which time he entered an exchange program with Yale University.

At Yale, Fletcher was taught by American Masters Paul Rand, and the artist Josef Albers, which heavily influenced his emerging design style and sensibility. Fletcher also arranged visits to prominent graphic designers studios such as Robert Brownjohn, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar in New York. It was through these visits that Fletcher won a commission to design a cover for Leo Lionni, art director of Fortune magazine, which at the time was a showcase for modern design and a client at the top of every aspiring graphic designer’s wish-list.

After graduating from Yale, Fletcher did a short stent with Saul Bass in his Los Angeles studio before returning to England via a trip to Milan. It was this trip to Milan that landed Fletcher one of his first design jobs that would help propel his career forward over the next ten years. In Milan, Fletcher took a job working for the Pirelli design studio. It was this brief job that allowed Fletcher to return to England with an established client, and one that would ultimately help him start his own design studio with friend Colin Forbes in 1959.
Over the next decade and a half Fletcher worked with a variety of clients helping to build his reputation as a designer, and establish him as a design influencer in both Europe and North America. His working relationship with Bob Gill, and Theo Crosby, set in place what would become the foundation of Pentagram which he would form in 1972 with Theo Crosby, Colin Forbes, Kenneth Grange and Mervyn Kurlansky.

Over the next 20 years Fletcher continued to work, expanding Pentagram, until leaving in 1992 to form his own independent studio at Notting Hill Gate in London. Over the next ten years Fletcher would work as a consultant to Phaidon Press, publish a series of books on design theory, and help to develop he visual identity of the Novartis Campus Project in Basel, Switzerland.

In 2001 Phaidon published Fletchers The Art of Looking Sideways on Fletcher’s visual philosophy. If you are a designer and you haven’t read it, go to the library and check it out. It’s worth your time.