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The Colorful Career of Irving Harper, Famed Herman Miller Designer

Irving Harper went to school to pursue his dream of becoming an architect, but since he graduated during the Depression from New York's Cooper Union, there weren't any jobs, so he ended up moving into industrial design. Over the next half-century, Harper's career shift would prove monumental, as he would help shape and define the style we now know as Midcentury Modern, becoming one of the key creatives behind the look of Herman Miller (he even formulated the company's distinctive logo, despite not being trained in graphic design). Harper, who recently passed away, may officially be categorized as an industrial designer, and started his career with a string of gigs with a futuristic air, including creating a Plexiglass exhibit in the '30s, working on the 1939 World's Fair in New York, and creating interiors for Raymond Loewy. But his work was much more universal. His designs for the office of George Nelson and elsewhere spanned textiles, furniture (such as his now-iconic Marshmallow Sofa), as well as a series of hundreds of intricate, playful paper sculptures he made with a single-edged razor blade and Elmer's Glue.

Herman Miller

Paper Sculptures


Footage of Harper's exhibition at the Rye Art Center last year, including an interview with Harper.

Other Projects

Remembering Irving Harper [Herman Miller]
A Midcentury Designer Made These Intricate Paper Sculptures [Curbed]
Eight Amazing Stories Told by George Nelson's Receptionist [Curbed]
Here Now, the Ads That Popularized Midcentury Modernism [Curbed]