Herman Miller’s history with Helvetica resurfaces in modernist rebrand

A new wordmark is among the changes brought in by Order Design; the sacred ‘M’ logo by Irving Harper has remained “off-limits”.

4 January 2024

Brooklyn design agency Order has overhauled Herman Miller, a trailblazer in the production of modern furniture. The new wordmark references a period in the late 1960s in which Herman Miller was using Helvetica. Söhne from Klim Type Foundry was chosen as a continuation of Helvetica and is a significant change from Meta, Herman Miller’s previous typeface that is more synonymous with 90s digitisation – read more about that interesting history here.

The rebrand comes after Herman Miller’s 100-year anniversary, with evolution clearly front of mind for the team. “The last brand identity served Herman Miller well for 25 years, but that system predated many of the touchpoints we now have with the Herman Miller customer,” says Kelsey Keith, brand creative director. “What we needed was an evolution of the brand, and a complete design system, one that could flex from a mobile phone screen to a physical space and everywhere in between, in all regions of the world.”

The Herman Miller logo has been left largely unchanged. It is one of the more recognisable brand symbols out there, designed by Irving Harper back in 1946 – it famously took only an hour to design, hurriedly put together in place of furniture photography for a catalogue. For both Order and Herman Miller, the logo was “off-limits”, though Jesse Reed, partner at Order and co-founder of Standards Manual, says it’s been “set free into the more dialled-up aspects of our new visual language”.

The past served as inspiration throughout, in particular Order was looking at the period of Herman Miller’s history that the brand felt at its purest “essence”. In that period it was working with Chicago designer John Massey and the design was modernist and to-the-point. Jesse explains: “Herman Miller had gone through experimental phases in the company’s infancy and into its early years, but around the late 1960s is where you see their most iconic pieces truly become solidified into the modernist canon.”

Order’s decision to reinstate Helvetica through Söhne pays homage to this period and so does the re-introduction of more expressive uses of colour. While looking through the brand archive, Order found a history of bright hues as well as other uniquely “emotional” elements which have been reinstated.

“I can think of no way better to jumpstart the next century, with a brand identity system that is timeless in its design yet carries through the boldness, rigour, joy, and tactility innate to the Herman Miller brand,” says Kelsey.

GalleryOrder Design: Herman Miller (Copyright © Order Design / Herman Miller, 2024)

Hero Header

Order Design: Herman Miller (Copyright © Order Design / Herman Miller, 2024)

Share Article

Further Info

About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.