Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

The women designers who made Herman Miller furniture shine

Tomoko Miho for Herman Miller. Courtesy Herman Miller.

There’s a famous Herman Miller ad, designed by George Tscherny in 1954, that shows the furniture brand’s marquee designers as “Traveling Men.” George Nelson, leaning against a trunk, is heading to Germany at the behest of the government. Charles Eames, looking at a map, is journeying to Japan. And Alexander Girard, pith helmet at the ready, is off to India to collect material for a Museum of Modern Art exhibit.

Those men—plus later colleagues and collaborators like Robert Propst (inventor of the cubicle), Irving Harper (the Sunburst clock) and Steve Frykholm (those mouthwatering picnic posters—spurred our long love affair with the midcentury version of the brand.

But new material from the Herman Miller archives complicates and expands the narrative of three (or six) male superstars. An article published earlier this week on the AIGA’s Eye on Design site, The Lesser-told Stories of the Women Who Shaped Herman Miller, surfaces less familiar names Peggy Ann Rohde, Tomoko Miho, Barbara Loveland and Linda Powell, along with Deborah Sussman, better known for her sizzling graphics for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Meg Miller’s article includes lots of great examples of their work; a few additional goodies are shown here.