George Nelson (1908–1986)
George Nelson is regarded as one of the founders of American Modernism. Architect, Industrial Designer, Graphic Designer, Clockmaker, Jounalist, a true modern day renaissance man… but many think of Nelson as simply “The Creator of Beautiful and Practical Things”.
A student of Architecture, he graduated in 1928 and found himself amongst a generation of Architects who had too few projects and shifted their talents successfully towards furniture design. From 1932 until 1934 George Nelson studied at the American Academy in Rome, returning to the US in 1935. Between 1944 and 1949 he was an associate editor and then a consultant editor for the journal “Architectural Forum”. As a journalist who wrote for many publications, Nelson was able to acquaint American readers with the European avant-garde. 1946 to 1972 is the period which George is best remembered when he worked as the Director of Design at Herman Miller whilst also running his own workshop (George Nelson & Associates). This period would generate over 150 clock designs, the most famous of which is the Ball Clock (its design is attributed to a night drinking with Noguchi, Fuller and Harper but none can remember who exactly designed it).
Nelson remains one of industrial design’s most influential figures today. Among his best known works are the marshmallow sofa, the coconut chair, and of course his many many clocks. Each success has become an industry landmark and his profound influence is still felt today in the industry he helped shape.