Nelson became a leading figure in post‐Second World War American design, architecture, and criticism. The foundations were laid in place when he graduated in architecture at Yale University in 1931, following this with studies in the American Academy in Rome between 1932 and 1934. This European experience led to a series of articles on European Modernism in the periodical Pencil Points, followed by work in an editorial capacity at the progressive and influential Architectural Forum (1935–44) and the establishment of his architectural practice in 1936. His progressive outlook was underlined by his book Tomorrow's House (1945), co‐authored with the designer Henry Wright. Also key to his emergence as a leading figure was his 1946 appointment as design director to the Herman Miller Furniture Company, for whom he commissioned designs from Charles Eames and Alexander Girard. He also designed a number of items of furniture himself, including the Basic Storage Unit, which originated from a concept that he had evolved with Henry Wright in 1944—the Storage Wall, essentially a room divider with storage units. In addition to lighting, textiles, and interiors, other designs for Herman Miller included the striking Marshmallow Sofa (1956), the Sling Sofa (1964), the Action Office (1964), and Executive Office (1971). For the Herman Miller Clock Company Nelson's designs included the Ball Clock (1950) with its contemporary molecular hour marks, and the Spider Web Clock (1954), which also made references to progressive 20th‐century sculpture. In 1947, with George Chadwick, he had founded his own industrial design consultancy, designing a wide range of interior and exhibition displays including the American National Pavilion at the Moscow International 1959 (See Eames, Charles). In addition to works already cited, Nelson wrote Problems of Design (1957) and How to See (1977).
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.