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Who is Herman Miller?

Updated May 23, 2024
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Herman Miller Inc. is a world-wide furniture company which is headquartered in Zeeland, Michigan,. With sales branches and other agencies on each of the world’s continents, the company has concentrated its manufacturing facilities in the U.S., China, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The company is involved at every stage of the design, manufacture and distribution of its furniture, office equipment and soft furnishings. It is also dedicated to the protection of the rights of its employees and has been commended for its work in the field of labor relations.

In 1923, Herman Miller and his son-in-law, D.J DePress, purchased Michigan based "The Star Furniture Company." In its early stages the company concentrated on traditional home furnishings, but this was to change in the early 1930s when DePress realized that a change was called for and a more contemporary edge was needed if the company were to maintain its competitive edge in the furniture marker. And though it bears his name, Herman Miller ceded power to his forward-looking son-in-law DePress, who was to direct the company in the succeeding decades.

Indeed, DePress was one of the first furniture manufacturers to forge relationships with noted designers of his time, commissioning innovative furniture from the likes of Charles and Ray Eames, Gilbert Rohde, George Nelson, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi. By the 1950s, this commitment to innovative design coupled with a reputation for excellent quality meant Herman Miller was a name recognized the world over.

The 1960s saw DePree’s son, Hugh, assume the Herman Miller helm. Following in his father’s footsteps, Hugh maintained the company’s innovative ethos and publicly unveiled, in 1964, The Action Office System. This new system transformed American office space layouts and introduced for the first time freestanding desks and filing cabinets. This meant that office space could be configured in ad-hoc arrangements and wasn’t simply anchored to the one static configuration.

The company’s move onto the stock market in 1970 was the beginning of what would become a period of boom for the Herman Miller brand. First in 1976 with the Ergon chair, designed by Bill Strumpf and made to conform to the science of ergonomics, and then in 1984 with the Equa chair, Herman Miller proved itself to be a world leader in cutting-edge design and at the very forefront of innovation.

Today, Herman Miller classics from the 1940s and 50s are considered collectables and a number of pieces have been exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Whitney Museum. Today, Herman Miller employs 6,000 people and turns over $805 million US Dollars per year.

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