Herman Miller has patronized some of the greatest designers of the past century: Isamu Noguchi, the Eames, and George Nelson, to name just a few. But at the same time–albeit more quietly–the company has also patronized some legendary graphic designers, tapping greats like John Massey and Don Ervin to produce iconic ads and posters as the business expanded in the 1950s and ’60s.
This year, Herman Miller launched a project called Then X Ten, a three-part celebration of what they call “the power of the poster.” They put out an open call for poster designs celebrating the most recognizable silhouettes, eventually garnering hundreds of entries, and hand-picked 10 contemporary illustrators to create original works based on pieces like the Eames lounge chair and Nelson’s Marshmallow sofa. Visitors to Art Basel Miami got a sneak peek of the resulting traveling show earlier this month, and now we’ve gotten our hands on the full set.
The Then X Ten posters tend to fall into one of two categories: historic or sexy (some are both!). There’s an awesome Eames-style collage hommage to the Molded Plywood chair by Eda Akaltun and a clever rendition of the HM logo that references Constructivism and prefab housing by Emily Forgot. Meanwhile Keiichi Tananmi goes all-out psychedelic for the Marshmallow sofa and Craig & Karl (hey, remember them?) have mirrored the faces of Charles and Ray in their signature supergraphic style. Personal favorites include Felix Pfaffi’s superimposition of female anatomy on a Molded Plastic chair and Genevieve Gauckler’s friendly goblin hanging off a Setu Chair.
Each of these posters is clever enough to make us lament the gradual passing of print advertising. Flash banners just can’t compare.