Two years into his long reign as design director of , shared his unvarnished thoughts on the market in a 1947 Fortune article. "The only simple statement that can be made about the furniture industry is that it is the second largest producer of consumer durable goods in the U.S.," he wrote, dryly. "The rest of the story is confusion, contradictions, more than a trace of catalepsy, and some exciting potentials." Nelson, an architect and prolific design critic, was not one to mince words; he was also a master of realizing such "potentials." At Herman Miller, he transformed a rather staid furniture firm into a hotbed of modernism, bringing forward-thinking designers Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi into the fold. Meanwhile, his design studio also churned out inventive, optimistic furnishings, including the Coconut chair, the sinuous bentwood Pretzel armchair, and the Ball clock, which replaced numbers with colorful spheres.
"George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher," a touring exhibition celebrating his many talents, is organized by the in Germany, and is making its final stop at a fitting locale: Nelson's alma mater, . In addition to such icons of midcentury design, the show also spotlights his work for Fortune 500 companies and his game-changing office furniture (those of us in cubicles know who to thank). The opening weekend's symposium features a lineup of boldface names, with speakers including designer Marc Newson, writer Alice Rawsthorn, and Murray Moss, fresh from his art-meets-design auction at Phillips de Pury.
"George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher," at Yale School of Architecture, November 8 to January 26, 2013;