Herman Miller is a 100-year-old-plus company that places great importance on design, the environment, community service and the health and well-being of our customers and our employees. Innovative ways to improve the performance of our customers’ organisations have become our hallmark. Herman Miller was a West Michigan businessman who helped his son-in-law, D.J. De Pree, buy the Michigan Star Furniture Company in 1923. De Pree had been working at the company, which opened in 1905, since he was hired in 1909 as a clerk. De Pree knew his father-in-law was a man of integrity, so he decided to rename the company after him.
By the middle of the 20th century, the name Herman Miller had become synonymous with “modern” furniture. Working with legendary designers George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames, the company produced pieces that would become classics of industrial design. Since then, we’ve collaborated with some of the most outstanding designers in the world, including Alexander Girard, Isamu Noguchi, Robert Propst, Bill Stumpf, Don Chadwick, Ayse Birsel, Studio 7.5, Yves Béhar, Doug Ball and many talented others.
Today, in addition to our classic pieces and new designs for the home, Herman Miller is a recognised innovator in contemporary interior furnishings, solutions for healthcare environments and related technologies and services. A publicly held company headquartered in Zeeland, Michigan, we have manufacturing facilities in the United States, China, Italy and the United Kingdom and sales offices, dealers, licensees and customers in over 100 countries. We operate through several focused businesses, brands and distribution channels, including Herman Miller, Herman Miller Healthcare, Nemschoff, Geiger International and independently owned dealerships. All of them work to design and build a better world around you.
A tale of ingenuity
An influential designer of mid-century modernism in America, George Nelson came across a set of hanging lamps from Sweden and loved everything about their modern aesthetic, except for their extravagant cost. “The Swedish design was done in a silk covering that was very difficult to make; they had to cut gores and sew them onto a wire frame. But I wanted one badly,” Nelson wrote in his book, On Design, published in 1979.
A seemingly unrelated reference soon led to an intuitive idea. He recalled, “It was a picture in the New York Times some weeks before which showed Liberty ships being mothballed by having the decks covered with netting and then being sprayed with a self-webbing plastic.” Nelson located the manufacturer of this resinous plastic and used it in the making of the bubble lamps.
A luminous skin
The first prototype of the lamp was designed in a matter of two days. Nelson created the spherical frame with perforated rings that were inserted with steel wires, a construction that retained its shape under tension, required minimum tools and no welding costs. It was then sprayed with the resinous lacquer to form a fibrous web, and a final coat of plastic was applied, creating a smooth, translucent skin. And hence Nelson had added lighting installations to his expanding portfolio of work and introduced a beautiful, timeless lighting fixture to consumers at modest prices.
VALUES IN ACTION
At Herman Miller, we respect each other as we are and focus on who we will become. Our culture represents the collective attitudes, aspirations, ideas, and experiences of the people who work here.
Our commitment to operational excellence is a reflection of our strongly held values and our history of innovation.
Inclusiveness and Diversity
We work for an environment in which a richly diverse and global workforce thrives. An inclusive environment allows us and our suppliers to be more innovative and to create products that best meet the needs of our customers around the world.
Better World Report
At Herman Miller, we’re committed to designing not just better products, but a better world. Here’s the latest on how we’re working to create stronger communities, a healthier and more inclusive workplace, and a greener planet.
For as long as we can remember, Herman Miller has supported volunteer initiatives ranging from highway and river cleanups to youth mentoring programs and home building projects. We give each of our employees 16 paid hours a year to work with the charitable organizations of their choice. We track our efforts annually, and in May 2016, we exceeded our three-year goal of 60,000 employee volunteer hours.
In 1989 a group of our employees launched the Environmental Quality Action Team (EQAT) and persuaded senior management to raise the importance of environmental advocacy within Herman Miller’s corporate agenda. This grass-roots effort, typical of our belief in employee engagement, has ensured that being mindful of the environment extends to all groups and all parts of Herman Miller. Site Safety and Sustainability Specialists meet regularly with their respective site teams to share information and ensure that Herman Miller’s environmental management system requirements are maintained.
DESIGNERS OF HERMAN MILLER
When writing about the course of his remarkable 50-year career,
George Nelson described a series of creative "zaps"—moments of out-of-the-blue inspiration
"when the solitary individual finds he is connected with a reality he never dreamed of."
An early zap came in the 1930s, when he was an architectural student in Rome. Before returning home, an idea struck him: he would travel Europe and interview leading modern architects, hoping to publish the articles in the US. He succeeded, and in the process introduced the US design community to the European avant-garde. This set in motion a sequence of what he called “lucky” career breaks that were really the inevitable outcomes of his brilliance as a designer, teacher and author.
The first break was being named an editor of Architectural Forum magazine. Working on a story there in 1942, he was looking at aerial photos of blighted cities when – zap! – he developed the concept of the pedestrian shopping centre in city centres, which was unveiled in the Saturday Evening Post.
Soon after, another zap led to the Storagewall, the first modular storage system and a forerunner of systems furniture. The Storagewall was showcased in a 1945 Life magazine article, causing a sensation in the furniture industry. Herman Miller founder D.J. De Pree saw the article and was so impressed that he paid a visit to Nelson in New York and convinced him to be his director of design, which spurred Nelson to found his design firm, George Nelson & Associates. The warm, personal and professional relationship between Nelson and De Pree resulted in a stunning range of products, from the playful Marshmallow Sofa to the first L-shaped desk, a precursor of today’s workstation.
Nelson once wrote that Herman Miller “is not playing follow-the-leader”. That’s one reason why George Nelson & Associates worked with Herman Miller for over 25 years as they shepherded design into the modern era. During this same period, George Nelson & Associates also created many landmark designs of products, showrooms and exhibitions for a variety of companies and organisations.
Nelson said that for a designer to deal creatively with human needs, “he must first make a radical, conscious break with all values he identifies as anti-human”. Designers also must constantly be aware of the consequences of their actions on people and society. In fact, he declared that: “Total design is nothing more or less than a process of relating everything to everything.” So he said that rather than specialising, designers must cultivate a broad base of knowledge and understanding.
Nelson did so as few are able and, with the help of well-timed “zaps”, he helped to define modern, humane design.