Full of Firsts: Herman Miller’s Graphic Designer shares 45 years of stories

While in Seattle, I had the chance to attend a talk by Herman Miller’s first ever Graphic Designer, Steve Frykholm who joined the legendary Furniture Company in 1970.

Personally focusing a lot on overall branding and social media, it’s rare to come across true original graphic design practitioners — ones that started their careers without computers at all.

There can always be a first time.

Steve Frykholm was the first at many things. At the event I learned that Herman Miller was the first company to actually charge money for their catalogue – it sold out and other companies copied the idea. They were also the first in the industry to make every single employee a shareholder.

Through imaginative work and corporate stories, he shared a list of lessons learned through his creative and award winning design process, over a 45+ year journey doing graphic design for Herman Miller.

One of the fascinating stories he shared was a simple internal design task: Creating a poster for the company picnic. These screen printed posters became an annual tradition for Steve and became well-known outside of the company.

Considered modern design classics, Steve’s Picnic Posters are in the permanent collections of museums all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art. The Picnic Posters offers a rare glimpse into Steve’s meticulous archives unearthing sketches and stories over 40 years old, alongside a visit to reprint his first picnic poster from 1970.

A really nice video was produced specifically featuring Steve and his posters: