Designer Profile: George Nelson

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Known for many iconic modern classic designs, George Nelson was a writer before a designer. Born in Connecticut in 1908, Nelson attended Yale University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 1928 and a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in 1931.

After graduating from Yale, Nelson won a prize that gifted him with a year of studying in Rome. During his year overseas, George Nelson traveled throughout Europe and met with several designers of the modern era, such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Upon his return to the USA in 1935, Nelson began writing for Pencil Points Magazine in which he introduced the international designers he had met to American readers.

From Pencil Points, George Nelson moved on to become the associate editor and then consultant editor at Architectural Forum Magazine. His involvement at the magazine lasted from 1935 to 1949, during which he co-wrote the book “Tomorrow’s House” with Henry Winkler and published in 1945.

“Tomorrow’s House” introduced many interesting concepts that had never been seen before, including that of the family room and the storage wall. Herman Miller President D.J. DePree took notice of these innovative concepts and asked George Nelson to become the director of design for the company in 1946. George Nelson’s role at Herman Miller paved the way for collaborations with well-known modern classic designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Harry Bertoia. George Nelson remained at Herman Miller until 1972, creating many iconic designs throughout those years, such as the Marshmallow Sofa, the Coconut Chair, and the Platform Bench.

Nelson’s contract with Herman Miller stated that he could work on other outside projects.  In 1947 he opened his own industrial design practice. In the same year, Nelson established a relationship with clock company Howard Miller (no affiliation with Herman Miller). Throughout Nelson’s collaboration with Howard Miller, over 130 clock designs were developed over 35 years, including the well-known Ball Clock.

In addition to his position at Herman Miller and his involvement with clocks at Howard Miller, George Nelson did many other things throughout his lifetime. He wrote several books, acted as an editor for various publications, worked on many interior design projects and assisted corporate brands in establishing their identities.  Nelson passed away in 1986 at the age of 77.

Take a look at the Nelson Coconut Chair, Ball Clock and Marshmallow Sofa available at Inmod.