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A Visual Tour of Alexander Girard's Beautiful, Folk Art-Inspired Design

A new retrospective at the Vitra Museum offers a deep dive into the influential designer's playful approach

Despite being an in-house designer at Herman Miller, a friend and collaborator with Ray and Charles Eames, and a master of colorful graphic design, Alexander Girard still seems like an artist at the margins, a lesser-known talent whose full body of work has yet to get its proper due. That hopefully will change with the new retrospective Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe, which opened at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany earlier this month. The kinetic, eye-poppingly bright display of Girard’s patterns, images, and interiors was the result of a deep dive into the archives painstakingly preserved by his family, and stands as the first-ever full appraisal of his career.

The resulting display, curated by curated by Jochen Eisenbrand and designed by London-based studio Raw Edges, features more than 700 items. Along with an exhaustive 500-page catalog, the exhibit chronicles the different phases of Girard's career, from his graphic work and office interiors to commissioned restaurants such as the glamorous La Fonda del Sol, what could be described as an early branded space. In an age of streamlined, machine-made modernism, Girard's humanistic work and fascination with folk art pushed the craft aesthetic before it made a massive comeback later in the century.