They communicate fast. And with style and wit.

Period Pronto Poster Brochure

Make it Snappy

Pronto Posters for Howard Miller

Lance Wyman hard at work designing the Pronto Posters, c. 1964. Photo: Herman Miller

Originally designed as safety posters for the Chrysler Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the Pronto posters were the work of George Nelson & Associates graphic artist, Lance Wyman. Tasked with creating visuals for the Production Line Ride—a slow moving, twelve car ride designed specifically for children—Wyman kept the design simple and playful. Nelson’s partner Gordon Chadwick suggested that the posters be made for factories, and Howard Miller subsequently mass-produced them as safety guides for the workplace. Touted as “…an entirely fresh approach to safety and general-message posters,” the Pronto series was comprised of twenty-three different warnings including “Wear Your Goggles”, “Don’t be a Litterbug” and “High Explosives”. Custom posters were also available upon request, and, according to a period brochure, would receive “immediate attention” from the Communication Division at Howard Miller.

Keeping Time

The William Dorsey Collection

William, Annette, Nathaniel, and Cordelia Dorsey.

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Like a thirsty man surrounded by saltwater, visitors to our midcentury modern home often glimpse more than 100, non-operating clocks on the wall and have this reaction. What use is a clock that isn’t plugged in and doesn’t tell time? The answer is that these are no ordinary clocks, as even a cursory inspection reveals. George Nelson and his team of designers—particularly Irving Harper—cared about function, but they were inspired by art, sculpture, innovation, and the philosophy of time.

A January 1, 1960 article in the New York Times put it succinctly. “Mr. Harper, seeking the soothing effect of shifting sands in hour-glasses, the mechanical wonders of eighteenth century clocks, and a new sculptural quality in time pieces, arrived [at the Motion Notion series]....By employing materials alien to clocksmiths of old, he has achieved a startling group of hypnotizing designs.” The designs are no less hypnotizing or influential sixty plus years later.

George Nelson & Associates

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1908, George Nelson studied architecture at Yale University, teaching for a short time before the Great Depression. In 1932, he won the Rome Prize and spent the next two years studying design in Italy. Returning to the states, Nelson sold his essays to Pencil Points and became an associate editor at Architecture Forum and Fortune magazine. After reading Nelson’s innovative book Tomorrow's House, then president of Herman Miller furniture company D.J. De Pree hired Nelson as design director. Nelson launched his first collection in 1947 and transformed the struggling company into a groundbreaking leader in the field. Nelson remained at Herman Miller until the mid-1960s, and was responsible for bringing Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard and Isamu Noguchi on board.

In 1947, Nelson opened his own design studio, George Nelson Associates, Inc. which at one time employed over seventy people. The company’s work within corporate settings revolutionized the concept of branding and elevated industrial design to new heights. Throughout his career, Nelson continued to write critically about design across multiple planes, teaching and consulting until his death in 1986.

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