George Nelson (Connecticut 1908-1986)

“Design is a response to social change.” George Nelson was a heavy weight in the 1950s minimalist movement and is now considered one of the founding fathers of American Modernism. Nelson’s passion for architecture and design began by accident when he ducked into an architectural school building to avoid the downpour of a rain storm and saw a student exhibition. The fire having been sparked, Nelson went on graduate from Yale University with an architectural degree in1928. In 1945, the Herman Miller furniture company produced conventional, wood-based designs. D.J. Depree, the Chairman of Herman Miller, after reading "Tomorrow's House" a book where Nelson advanced the idea of using the space in between walls for storage chose Nelson to be the company's next Director of Design. "Tomorrow's House" was innovative because it looked at the way things needed to be solved more than design for design’s sake. Nelson had no experience designing furniture but Depree was more interested in Nelson’s insight into making furniture innovative and useful. He became the Director of Design for Herman Miller in 1945, and held the position until 1972. Over the span of his directorship, Nelson would help introduce some of the most iconic home furnishings of the 20th century. Ray and Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Isamu Noguchi all worked for Herman Miller, under Nelson's supervision. George Nelson is also remembered for his individual contribution to modern furniture, the three-cornered luxurious Coconut Chair. Nelson took his inspiration from similarly minded designers like Eames and Jacobsen, and of course the inspiring coconut. His design revealed a remarkably comfortable chair with a slightly elongated back, shallow arms and appealing curves that invited sitters to lounge comfortably in any variety of sitting positions.

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