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When writing about the course of his remarkable 50-year career, George Nelson described a series of creative "zaps"--moments of out-of-the-blue inspiration "when the solitary individual finds he is connected with a reality he never dreamed of." George Nelson & Associates created many landmark designs of products, showrooms, and exhibitions for a variety of companies and organizations. George Nelson did so as few are able, and, with the help of well-timed zaps, he helped define modern, humane design.
An early zap came in the 1930s, when George Nelson was an architectural student in Rome. Before returning home, an idea struck him: He would travel Europe and interview leading modern architects, hoping to get the articles published in the U.S. He succeeded, and in the process introduced the U.S. design community to the European avant-garde. This set in motion a sequence of what he called "lucky" career breaks that were really the inevitable outcomes of his brilliance as a designer, teacher, and author.
Soon after, another zap led to the Storagewall, the first modular storage system and a forerunner of systems furniture. The Storagewall was showcased in a 1945 Life magazine article, causing a sensation in the furniture industry. Herman Miller founder D.J. DePree saw the article and was so impressed that he paid a visit to George Nelson in New York and convinced him to be his director of design, which spurred Nelson to found his design firm, George Nelson & Associates. The warm personal and professional relationship between George Nelson and DePree yielded a stunning range of products, from the playful Nelson® Marshmallow Sofa to the first L-shaped desk, a precursor of today's workstation.
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