Harper decided that he liked this line of work better than architecture, because it was more varied and more entrepreneurial. Thus he went to work with Gilbert Rohde and was in part responsible for the Home Furnishings Focal exhibit at the World's Fair. Afterwards, he went to work for Raymond Loewy and designed interiors. Ernest Farmer, a colleague at Rohde's office, persuaded George Miller to hire Harper.
In 1947 Nelson put Harper in charge of designing trade advertising for the Herman Miller account, but he contributed to many designs that came out of the Nelson office.
According to Harper and John Pile, another designer who worked in the office, George Nelson felt that only one name should be associated with the work that came out of his office. He didn't mind if individual designers were given credit for their work in trade publications, but as far as the consumer was concerned, he wanted the firm to get the credit. As a result, Nelson received personal credit for the work of others in a number of instances.
Harper created the logo for Herman Miller in 1947, as well as numerous Howard Miller clocks, such as the numberless sunburst and the Chronopak series, and several pieces of furniture.
Irving Harper is featured in this week's video in the Why Design series by Herman Miller. The video is my favorite so far, although I have enjoyed the others very much.
Harper, who celebrated his 96th birthday in July, talks about working with George Nelson, about designing the Marshmallow sofa and the Thin Edge group, and he explains how he developed such an extraordinary talent for making paper sculptures. Harper estimates that he has made approximately 300 of the sculptures, which are displayed in his house or stored in his barn. The majority are masks, animals, figures, and abstract pieces inspired by pre-Columbian, African and Southeast Asian art, as well as the Cubism of Picasso.
When you see his paper sculptures, I think you'll be glad you watched the video.
From georgenelson.org, nytimes.com and hermanmiller.com
|Thin Edge cabinet|
|Howard Miller Model #2202|
|Herman Miller logo|
Update: Irving Harper was still alive when this post was published. However, he died on August 4, 2015, which is reflected by date changes at the beginning of the post.