The amazing thing about Herman Miller is that it mostly manufactures office furniture — in Zeeland, Michigan, no less — yet people talk about it like it sells tickets to heaven. A lot of that can be credited to Herman Miller's crack self-promotion. The company is great at telling its own story. And thanks to an interactive website by Grand Rapids-based Peopledesign, it's gotten even better.
Discovering Design is an online exhibit featuring the archives of Herman Miller, itself a major player in the history of modern residential furniture. Before it started hawking high-tech task chairs and desk dividers, Herman Miller was distributing some of the most innovative examples of mid-century Modernism, from the Eames's molded plywood chair to Isamu Noguchi's glass-topped table. The website takes great pains to home in on this connection, through slideshows, designer profiles, films, and riveting tales about things like foam padding and splints.
OK, so splints might not pique the interest of a design neophyte. Still, the site's a great introduction to modern furniture — the perfect CliffNotes for learning just enough to pretend you know what you're talking about at a dinner party. (The Marshmellow Sofa? Oh, yes, George Nelson's quirky classic. The Bauhaus? Of course. Walter Gropius's 1919 utopian vision for reforming the artistic process and combining art and craft.) As for design junkies, the site's such an amazing collection of furniture porn, you'll doubtless waste hours scrolling around on it... only to find yourself suddenly wanting — no needing — a new Aeron chair. Now, that's clever marketing.
[For a history of Herman Miller's greatest designers, the Eames's, click here]