With architecture and fine art degrees from Yale University, George Nelson was an American industrial designer and widely accepted as one of the founders of American Modernism, along with Charles and Ray Eames. He also paved the way for European Modernist designers to become famous in the United States.
In collaboration with Herman Miller Inc., and later with his own company George Nelson Associates Inc., he signed his name under many iconic designs of the 20th century. He earned his degree in architecture in 1928. During his final year at Yale, Nelson was hired by the architecture firm Adams and Prentice as a drafter. Meanwhile he got his second bachelor degree from Yale, in Fine Arts, in 1931. He won the prestigious Rome Prize: a year of architecture study with a good allowance and accommodation in a palace in Rome. During his time in Rome, Nelson interviewed the modernist designers all over Europe, and got his articles published in the American Pencil Points magazine. Through his articles, he introduced the work of Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti to North America.
George Nelson is one of the names behind now mainstream ideas such as open-plan houses, storage walls and family rooms, which he introduced in his book “Tomorrow’s House”. In 1944, the director of the Herman Miller Furniture Company, D. J. Depree was so impressed by the aesthetic eye and innovative ideas of Nelson that he employed him as the design director of Herman Miller, despite his lack of experience as a designer. However, Nelson proved to be the right choice by bringing design geniuses such as Charles and Ray Eames and Isamu Noguchi to Herman Miller. Meanwhile he formed his own company in New York, George Nelson & Associates, where he, along with his team of designers, designed iconic furniture such as the Marshmallow Sofa, the Coconut Chair, the Ball Clock, the Bubble Lamp series and many other sought after designs. During his supervision, Herman Miller Inc. produced “Action Office II”, now known as the “Office Cubicle”, designed by Robert Propst. However, George Nelson expressed his discontent with the design stating it is a “dehumanizing” system that “creates corporate zombies, the walking dead, the silent majority. A large market." He was right, especially on the large market part: By 2005, total sales of the design reached $ 5 billion. George Nelson retired after closing his studio in the mid-1980s. He died in New York City in 1986.