George Nelson was a visionary in American Mid-Century design and his pieces are often described as modern and timeless, characterized by their different shapes and variation in color schemes. George Nelson’s ideas about design make him stand out among other modernist architects and furniture designers.
Nelson was born in Hartford, Connecticut. After graduating from Hartford public high school in 1924, he attended Yale. There, he sort of “stumbled” upon the architecture career path. He was looking for refuge during a rainstorm and the architecture building was near him. Fascinated by the student's displayed work, he decided to change the trajectory of his career path, gearing towards architecture instead. During his time at Yale, he received recognition in magazines for his excellent work as a writer and was hired by Adams and Prentice architecture firm as a drafter during his senior year. In 1929, he was hired as a teachers assistant while pursuing a second degree in Fine Arts. As a student, Nelson competed for the Roman Prize and obtained it which awarded him a one-year scholarship to study in Europe. He took advantage of this opportunity and, in his travels, interviewed important architects of the modern era – Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti - for the magazine, Pencil Points.
He joined Architectural Forum in 1935, where he acted as an associate and consulting editor. In 1940, Nelson published Tomorrow’s House which got him public attention and intrigued the president of Herman Miller, D.J De Pree. This opened up doors for him and soon he was the Director of Design at Herman Miller, a position he held between 1947 and 1972. While working for Herman Miller, Nelson was able to open his own firm, George Nelson & Associates in New York. Through his firm, he collaborated with many designers like Irving Harper, George Mulhauser, Don Chadwick, and Robert Brownjohn. With them, he created some of the most iconic Mid-Century designs known today. Many of those designs are still being produced.
Considered one of the founding fathers of American Modernism, George Nelson’s pieces include some of the most iconic designs of the modern era. His iconic sofa designs, the fascinating coconut chair, and his dazzling bubble lamp are among many. Architect, furniture designer, writer, graphic designer, Nelson is without a doubt, one of the most celebrated mid-20th Century designers of our time.
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