Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller


Top to bottom:
2000 Marshmallow Sofa, Herman Miller for the Home/Nelson Office
1970 HM Summer Picnic Poster by Steve Frykholm
2003 Posture Fit Pellicle Tuxedo Aeron Chair by Bill Stumpf/Don Chadwick

The Muskegon Museum of Art announces its creation of the traveling design exhibition Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller. The exhibition opens in Muskegon on August 20, 2009, and will subsequently tour as many as 15 American cities into 2013. The exhibition explores the collaborative problem-solving design process employed at the world-renowned and West Michigan-based furniture company, Herman Miller, Inc. The interpretive exhibition is organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA) in collaboration with The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan, drawing upon that institution’s Herman Miller Design Collection – a comprehensive archive of the company’s innovative processes and products.

MMA Executive Director Judith A. Hayner’s long-standing interest in modern design sparked a dream of showcasing original designed artifacts along with their drawings and prototypes. This exhibition is the fruition of her goal. “With Herman Miller operating in our back yard, it is important for the Museum to hold up and examine the process of design as its been practiced in West Michigan for nearly eight decades. We decided to focus on case studies that explore design problems and solutions created by some of the talented artists who have created masterpieces of modern design for the company, and continue to do so today.”

The inspiration for the exhibition came from the recent book Herman Miller: the Purpose of Design by design scholar and authority John R. Berry, first published by Rizzoli International in 2004. A second edition with updated content will be released to coincide with the exhibition’s opening at the MMA.  Mr. Berry also agreed to be the exhibition’s guest curator.  An extraordinary partnership with The Henry Ford made available the vast resources of that institution’s Herman Miller Design Collection, most of which has never before been on public view. Finally, Herman Miller agreed to underwrite the exhibition’s organization while affording the MMA the academic and esthetic freedom to critically explore its legacy.

Commenting on the idea behind the exhibition, Mr. Berry observed, “Many people are confused by the difference between art and design. Design is a noun, a verb, and a problem solving process.  It is art with a purpose.  Good design requires a clear understanding of the particular need, conditions, constraints, and opportunities.  Good design does not happen in a vacuum.”

“At Herman Miller, design is the means and the end,” said Berry. “It is the starting point and the destination. Since 1931, not long after its founding, Herman Miller had embraced design as a way to improve people’s lives, and through that goal, they created new industries and some of the most iconic objects of the last century.  Charles and Ray Eames’s molded plywood Lounge Chair, George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa, and Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick’s Aeron Chair which populates so many offices today, are all products of Herman Miller, Inc.”

The exhibition displays will be arranged to present viewers with four case studies—“stories”—chosen to embody four different active characteristics of “good design,” as a result of the problem-solving ethos of Herman Miller, Inc:
·    Case Study #1: Ergonomics (Seating)    Good Design Explores
·    Case Study #2: White Collar Work (Action Office)     Good Design Inquires
·    Case Study #3: Graphic Communications    Good Design Engages
·    Case Study #4: Mid-Century Classics     Good Design Endures

Mr. Berry explained the organization of the exhibition: “Each object grouping started with identifying a need—to furnish a new type of living space, for healthier seating, to effectively communicate a message, or to support new kinds of work.” The exhibition uses drawings, models, prototypes, photographs, oral histories, and original designed objects to showcase the creation and evolution of many masterpieces of 20th and 21st century design by such artists as Gilbert Rohde, Ray & Charles Eames, George Nelson, Alexander Girard, Robert Propst, Steve Frykholm, Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick, and others.

Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller has been organized for national tour by the Muskegon Museum of Art, Michigan, which was founded in 1912 as a division of the Muskegon Public Schools. The Museum is renowned for its fine permanent collections of American and European Art, including works by Curry, Hopper, Homer, Chase, Whistler, Van Cleve, Cranach, Pissarro, Rodin, Sisley, and Bonnard. It uses these resources to present exhibitions and public programs designed to foster life-long study and appreciation of the visual arts.

The exhibition has been created in collaboration with The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, through the generous support of Herman Miller, Inc. The exhibition is curated by John Berry, Holland; coordinated by Timothy Chester, Grand Rapids; designed by Judy Hillman and Barb Loveland, Hillman Associates, Saugatuck; and fabricated by Vincent Faust, Kalamazoo.





August 21 – November 8
Herman’s Design Lab
Help our friend “Herman” find the answers to design problems as you explore the world of design in four interactive educational stations housed in Walker Gallery B. Each station presents a different design challenge.
#1 Fit to Sit
EXPLORE the ergonomics of a chair by rearranging the padding to make it fit your body perfectly.
#2 Action Homework Station
INQUIRE, design, and arrange your perfect homework station. Using a miniature model, design a station that would fit your style and needs. Next, using the life size hands-on model, arrange the station based on your mini design model.
#3 House of Design
ENGAGE yourself in the elements of design. Color, shape, line, and texture will help you create your own design on an Eames card. When you’re finished, add it to our growing House of Cards.
#4 Built to Last
Discov r how design ENDURES the test of time. Learn about objects that have
lasted through the ages.

2nd & 4th Thursdays
August 27 – November 12, 12:15 pm
Brown Bag Films
The Films of Ray and Charles Eames, Parts I-VI

Thursdays, August 27 – October 29
1:00–3:00 pm
Open Tours
Drop in for free guided tours of Good Design, led by MMA docents.

September 8 – November 8
Special Good Design Tour
Go Green! School Tours
Students will learn how furniture company Herman Miller, Inc. created an exceptional standard for good design as well as green design during these special tours. Transportation support is available through the Alcoa Foundation/Howmet and the Muskegon Conservation District YES! Grant. Contact Cathy Mott at 231.720.2587 for funding information. Call 231.720.2571 at least two weeks in advance to reserve your tour date.

Saturday, September 12
10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Super Chair Saturday
Free Family Fun Day
Second Saturdays of the month are made for fun at the MMA! Each Super Saturday features a different theme and free activities and admission. Underwritten by the Alcoa Foundation, supporting Howmet communities. This month’s Super Saturday is designed for fun and creativity!
10:00 am & 1:00 pm Film
(28 mins) Explore the world of Ray and Charles Eames, world-renowned furniture designers who loved to express themselves with design and filmmaking (Film shown courtesy of the Eames Office LLC).
10:00 am – 1:00 pm Guided Tours
Explore Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller with an MMA docent.
11:00 am – 2:00 pm Make & Take
Design and construct your own mini furniture with craft sticks.

Thursday, September 17
7:00 pm
A Night with Nelson
Presented by John Berry, Director of Design West Michigan

Location: Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SAC) Bertha Krueger Reid Theatre
George Nelson’s range of works, writings, and design direction at Herman Miller provided leadership for what today is called Mid-Century Modern. John Berry, Good Design guest curator knew Nelson and will give a fascinating presentation highlighting the designer’s remarkable range of accomplishments. This SAC program is sponsored by Huntington Bank and Bill Hess and Mike Mattern. Visit

Thursday, September 24
5:30 pm
The Purpose of Design
The 10th Annual DeVos Art Lecture
Presented by John Berry
Location: Loosemore Auditorium, DeVos Center, Robert C. Pew Campus, Grand Valley State University
John Berry will share his views and experiences of design in today’s world, drawing upon his experiences with Herman Miller, Inc. Berry will discuss the relationship between art and design and their role in today’s economy.

Monday, October 5
8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Design Workshop for Teachers
TIDES (Teachers Institute for Design Education Series)
Hosted by Mark and Linda Keane, founders of NEXT
TIDES workshops strive to provide teachers with a working knowledge of what design is, why it is important, and how to introduce it across K12 learning landscapes. Participants engage in active learning exercises that expand free and easy access to selected learning resources while directly engaging with local community resources. TIDES utilizes design activities that meet national K12 educational standards for environmental education, math, science, social studies, language arts, art, health and physical education, creating an integrated, holistic learning lattice. Visit for more information. Call 231.767.7267 to register. (SB-CEU available)

Thursday, October 22
6:00 pm
Through in-depth conversations, this feature-length documentary examines the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential product designers who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. Learn about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves? Free Thursday program. 

Thursday, October 29

6:30 pm
The Herman Miller Poster Tradition
Presented by Steve Frykholm Vice-President and Creative Director, Herman Miller, Inc. Location: MMA auditorium Designed by Steve Frykholm, Herman Miller summer “picnic” posters are as familiar and endearing as an Eames chair. These graphically dynamic posters reflect the essence of the Herman Miller experience. The highly sought iconic posters are held in many collections, including those of MoMA and the Library of Congress. Frykholm’s discussion about these colorful communications will be followed by a question and answer period. Light refreshments will be served before the program, starting at 6:00 pm, in the MMA auditorium. Sponsored by the West Shore Graphic Arts Society.

The Muskegon Museum of Art is located at 296 W. Webster Ave. in downtown Muskegon. Call 231-720-2570 or visit for information.

SUN noon-4:30
MON closed
TUES 10-6 June-August

TUES 10-4:30 September

TUES closed October-May

WED 10-4:30
THURS 10-6 June-August

THURS 10-8:00 September-May
FRI 10-4:30
SAT 10-4:30
Office Hours: Monday through Friday, 8-5:00.

$5.00 (Free on Thursdays)
Free admission for MMA Members,
Students (with I.D.) and ages 17 and under.
Extra admission may be charged for special exhibitions and events.



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