Herman Miller 100 | AOS Interior Environments
This year marks a century of Herman Miller. In 1923, founder D.J. De Pree purchased the Michigan Star Furniture Company with the help of his father-in-law, who was named Herman Miller. Once a producer of traditional bedroom suites and reproductions, the company under De Pree's leadership took a risk in going modern. By renaming the company after Mr. Miller, who was known for his integrity, De Pree honored the man and boosted the company’­­s image in one deft move. Although he never worked at the company, “Mr. Miller set me on the quality trail,” De Pree once said, by encouraging him to find the best materials and workers.
Herman Miller, Herman Miller 100th anniversary, Charles and Ray Eames, MillerKnoll, Eames Molded Plywood Chairs, Eames Molded Fiberglass Chair, Eames Molded Plastic Shelll Chair, interior design, furniture design, sustainable design, commercial furniture manufacturing
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Herman Miller 100

This year marks a century of Herman Miller. In 1923, founder D.J. De Pree purchased the Michigan Star Furniture Company with the help of his father-in-law, who was named (you guessed it!) Herman Miller. Once a producer of traditional bedroom suites and reproductions, the company under De Pree’s leadership took a risk in going modern.

By renaming the company after Mr. Miller, who was known for his integrity, De Pree honored the man and boosted the company’­­s image in one deft move. Although he never worked at the company, “Mr. Miller set me on the quality trail,” De Pree once said, by encouraging him to find the best materials and workers.  

For 100 years, Herman Miller has been synonymous with quality—from products and processes to buildings and people. De Pree came to believe that original design was also essential to quality. Historical reproductions were out of step with 20th century living. And that’s how Herman Miller turned to modern. In the decades that followed, a host of design pioneers became collaborators—Rohde, Nelson, the Eameses, Girard, and Noguchi, among others—with the Herman Miller, the company, influencing both the design industry and culture-at-large. 

Celebrating 100 year of . . .

Innovative Craft

Charles Eames once said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” For 100 years, Herman Miller has set the bar for original design, innovative materials, and craft. Charles and Ray Eames established their long and legendary relationship with Herman Miller in 1946 with their boldly original molded plywood chairs. In the early 1940s, when Charles Eames was working on MGM set designs, he and his wife, Ray, were experimenting with wood-molding techniques that would have profound effects on the design world. Their discoveries led to a commission from the US Navy to develop plywood splints, stretchers, and glider shells, molded under heat and pressure, that were used successfully in World War II. When the war was over, Charles and Ray applied the technology they had created to making affordable, high-quality chairs that could be mass-produced using shaped surfaces instead of cushioned upholstery, resulting in the iconic Eames Molded Plywood Chairs.

The Eameses didn’t stop there. They continued to venture into new materials, experimenting with fiberglass to produce the Molded Side Chair in1950. This chair, with its organic form and functional design, became a staple in modern homes and offices.

Fast forward to today, Herman Miller’s products are pushed to the limit—and then some—in their Test Lab, where you’ll find weighted bags dropped into the seat of a chair, casters spun for days on end, and machines that wouldn’t feel out of place in a repair shop. Herman Miller tests their products beyond what the industry expects—or requires—because they want them to stand the test of time.

Environmental Advocacy

Herman Miller designs for good by being a good steward of the environment, which has long been a core value for the company. Prior to Ray’s passing away in 1988, she had become concerned with the way the original Molded Fiberglass Chairs were constructed—particularly how the material evaporated into the atmosphere—so she started the process of discontinuing the chair.

The Molded Shell Chair is exemplary of the Eameses’ iterative process and their desire to make “the best for the most for the least.” With each new form, finish, and configuration, they continued to push the boundaries of what the shell chair could be. After experimenting with single-form plywood and stamped metal, they turned to fiberglass and experimented with bent wire. When fiberglass production proved unhealthy for the environment, the decision was made to switch production to a safer plastic. Now, with advancements in safe fiberglass composition, dynamic veneer technologies, and sustainable materials, the evolution continues with the Molded Fiberglass, Molded Wood, and Molded Plastic Chairs.

The Molded Shell Chair though is just one example of Herman Miller’s commitment to environmental advocacy. From ocean-bound plastic to responsibly sourced timber, Herman Miller believes in managing their materials responsibly to preserve the Earth’s resources. Additionally, MillerKnoll’s rePurpose program gives new life to used products, diverting up to 98% of product from landfills.

Check out MillerKnoll’s Better World report here to track their progress toward a better world, striving to take less and give back more.

Design Authorship

Thanks to a designer roster that draws on perspectives from around the world, Herman Miller offers incredibly unique problem-solving designs. By the middle of the 20th century, the name Herman Miller had become synonymous with “modern” furniture. De Pree first hired designer Gilbert Rohde in 1930 to drive these innovations, and then a decade and a half later, he hired George Nelson, who changed the course of the entire company. Design-driven—and with support from De Pree—Nelson brought in his contemporaries, such as Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi, to produce pieces that would become modern classics.

Take look at all of the designers who have collaborated with Herman Miller here.

Artful Living

Herman Miller takes the art of living seriously. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Herman Miller’s brand name, take a deep dive into their rich archive of graphic design, which brings their story of artful living and cultural influence to life.

Sources

Herman Miller. “100 years of Herman Miller.” Webpage.

Herman Miller. “Eames Molded Fiberglass Chairs.” Webpage.

Herman Miller. “Eames Molded Plastic Chairs.” Webpage.

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