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A monumental, French-curved M
The story of the Herman Miller logo
Busy working on his first furniture collection as Creative Director at Herman Miller and also responsible for the marketing of this collection, George Nelson handed the design of the new Herman Miller trademark to Paul Rand.
When Rand backed out of the project, it was given to Irving Harper, Design Director at George Nelson & Co. and who was responsible for much of the furniture-maker’s classic advertising.
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As Nelson’s collection was not ready and with no available photography, the trademark needed to work hard to catch the eye. Further, it should be simple enough to also work heat-stamped on to wood furniture and be reproduced in just two colours for advertising.
With these constraints in mind, Harper fashioned a striking form, a “monumental, French-curved M”, printed bold red with a black and white wood-grain texture on top.
This wood-grain texture would only be used when the reproduction size permitted, however, after a short period of use this wood grain was dropped and the trademark was then applied as either a solid colour or as an outline.
Today, and on quick inspection, the trademark appears largely unchanged, however, looking closer, small alterations can be recognised between 1946–1998. These include a shallow smoother bottom bow (1960, George Nelson Office), a wider top bow and the flattening of the points which made it more scaleable.
More noticeably is the change in type and the relationship between type and mark. In 1968 John Massey introduced Helvetica aligned to the right of the mark, replacing the serif, and then in 1998 Brian Edlefson & Steve Frykholm changed Helvetica to Meta and placed the mark within a bright red circle.
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