Poster, Textiles & Objects, 1961
This is a poster. It was designed by John Neuhart and Alexander Hayden Girard and printed by Tayo Press and made for (as the client) Herman Miller Furniture Company. It is dated 1961 and we acquired it in 2004. Its medium is screenprint on textured off-white paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.
The poster/invitation, Herman Miller Textiles & Objects (1961), was included in the museum’s popular exhibition, The Opulent Eye of Alexander Girard, in 2000, and displays the brilliant primary colors, dynamic patterning, and uninhibited ornament that made Girard one of the leading designers and design promoters of the 1960s.
The American-born Girard grew up in Italy and trained as an architect at the Royal Institute of British Architects and at the Royal School of Architecture in Rome before establishing his own New York design office in 1932. By 1937, he and his wife had moved to Detroit, which was one of the early centers for American modernist design. Three exhibitions, For Modern Living (1949) at the Detroit Institute of Art, Design for Modern Use, organized as a traveling exhibition for MoMA, and MoMA’s Good Design (1954), brought Girard media coverage and wide-spread recognition. Charles Eames, whose objects were included in these exhibitions, became a close friend. Eames introduced Girard to George Nelson, a colleague at Herman Miller Inc., and to the De Pree family, the owners of Herman Miller Inc.
In 1952, Girard joined Herman Miller as the Director of Design for the company’s newly created Textiles Division. In this capacity, he designed a full range of upholstery and casement fabrics based on the principle that patterns had to respect the furniture and the spaces in which they inhabit. Girard’s patterns were fresh, interesting, and consisted of small geometric repeats designed to look best on flat-surfaced, square-cornered modern furniture.
Girard showed his flair for interiors when Herman Miller decided to open a retail San Francisco showroom, called Barbary Coast, in 1956. Girard transformed the building’s interior—which had served as a turn-of-the-century music hall—into a sympathetic, Victorian-inspired aesthetic. To announce the shop’s opening, Girard, along with graphic designer John Neuhart, who worked in the Eames office, decided to reflect the interior design through a style of wood type that had been popular in the 19th century. Girard and Neuhart followed the same approach with greater splash and success in this 1961 poster/invitation for the opening of Herman Miller’s Textiles and Objects Shop on East 53rd Street in Manhattan. In this work, Neuhart played up the horizontal and vertical organization with a cacophony of different sizes and styles of typefaces combined with an assortment of wingdings directly derived from late 19th-century wood type posters.
English designers working on the graphic identity for the 1951 Festival of Britain seem to have been responsible for reviving wood type. From England, the practice spread to the rest of Europe and America. Robert Jones, at the Glad Hand Press in New York, was one of the enthusiasts using wood type in the 1950s. According to Neuhart’s wife, Marilyn, there was a lot of interest in wood type in the 1950s and many designers kept examples of old wood type in their studios. Neuhart also used wood type in 1957 for a poster advertising the Eames office design of the Griffith Park Miniature Railroad in Detroit, and again in 1959–60 for the mural in the Fonda del Sol Restaurant in the Time-Life Building in New York.
Cooper-Hewitt is fortunate to have a large number of works by Girard in its collection. The posted proposed for acquisition would be an excellent addition, as the Neuharts are able to offer an example that is pristine and was never folded for mailing.
 Rob Roy Kelly, American Wood Type, 1828-1900; Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, 1969).
Its dimensions are
H x W: 66.5 × 51 cm (26 3/16 × 20 1/16 in.)
Cite this object as
Poster, Textiles & Objects, 1961. screenprint on textured off-white paper. Gift of Marilyn and John Neuhart. 2004-13-1.