Pieces by furniture manufacturer Herman Miller are so synonymous with midcentury modern interior design that Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner opted not to include the classic lounge chair that Charles and Ray Eames designed for the company in fictional ad man Don Draper's apartment, for fear of it being too cliché. (Realistically, Draper might have shared the same sentiment, attuned as he is to the pitfalls of predictability). Still, before television audiences were even introduced to the enigmatic protagonist, the Herman Miller legacy had left its mark on the show; its very title sequence features a classic ad for the Herman Miller collection, one of many that industrial designer Irving Harper created for the office of George Nelson, who served as design director of the company from 1947 to 1972. In many ways, the manufacturer's print ads guided the design ethos of the era, and back when they first appeared in magazines like Art & Architecture, defined the iconic presence of Herman Miller furniture—think the Marshmallow Sofa, the Ball Clock, or anything with the surname Eames attached to it—just as much as the pieces themselves.
Though Irving Harper wasn't the only one to design ads for Herman Miller, it was his training as an architect and subsequent page-as-site approach that brought about the spatial focus and visual coherence the manufacturer's ads became known for. As the Swiss magazine Graphis noted in a 1953 survey of his magazine work, "The page on which to print is regarded as a site on which to build…. Pictorial material, often broken into fragments, is organized by asymmetrical harmonies." Below, have a look at more of the ads that introduced midcentury modern to the world.