Design Legend: George Nelson

Through his writing in “Pencil Points,” Nelson introduced Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti to North America. He defended sometimes ferociously the modernist principles and irritated many of his colleagues who as “industrial designers” made, according to Nelson too many concessions to the commercial forces in industry. He was asked to become Herman Miller’s design director, an appointment that became the start of a long series of successful collaborations with Ray and Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, Richard Schultz, Donald Knorr and Isamu Noguchi. Although both Bertoia and Noguchi expressed later on regrets about their involvement, it became a uniquely successful period for the company and for George Nelson. He set new standards for the involvement of design in all the activities of the company, and in doing so he pioneered the practice of corporate image management, graphic programs and signage. He was without any doubt the most articulate and one of the most eloquent voices on design and architecture in the U.S.A. of the 20th century.

“a convinced modernist…there was no point whatever in
trying to beat the ancients at their own game.” – Nelson

Furniture Characteristics:

  • Use of Many Circular Shapes.
  • European Modernism.
  • Architectural Structure combined with furniture.



Nelson’s bed is very sleek and employs thin woods and metals to form a very simple structure.  It is designed so that the mattress reaches the edges of the frame. In the adaptation, the simplicity and over all shape of the bed is maintained however larger more weighty pieces of metal and wood are used to give the bed a more grounded effect. Additionally, the mattress does not fully cover the bottom portion of the frame and the foot board portion is removed.

One of Nelson’s most famous pieces, the iconic Marshmallow Sofa was designed after he was approached by an inventor that had designed the couch’s plastic discs. Nelson took 18 of the discs and arranged them atop a steel frame to create this sofa’s atom-like appearance.

Part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, these sculptural pendant lamps are designed by George Nelson. Instant icons of mid-century modernism when introduced in 1947, they are constructed of a steel wire frame and covered with translucent plastic, emitting a soft, even light.

3 thoughts on “Design Legend: George Nelson

  1. I did not. I wish I would have. If I were still in Texas, I would have definitely driven up for it.

  2. Pingback: Design Legend: Arthur Mackmurdo |

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