“Sharp, brilliant colors skillfully combined or used with neutral tones provide excitement in an extensive collection of textiles introduced by Herman Miller Company…” describes the New York Times writer Betty Pipes of Alexander Girard’s debut textile collection in 1952.[1] Girard was a European trained architect who came to prominence in Detroit, where he established an architecture and design practice in the 1940s. From the inception of his career, Girard worked across a diverse range of media, completing design projects for exhibitions, furniture, and corporate interiors. However, Girard received national attention in 1952, when the designers Charles Eames and George Nelson hired him as the Director of Design for Herman Miller’s textile division.[2]

Alexander Girard’s eclectic sensibility derives from his passion as a collector of folk art objects; he traveled around the world in pursuit of small treasures and amassed a collection of approximately 106,000 pieces. These vivid, colorful “toys” served as the inspiration for his varying joyful and unique designs.[3] Cooper Hewitt’s Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design department has over 280 objects by Alexander Girard, including this textile design, Clothespins, 1957-59. Using vibrant variations of blue, red, and purple tissue papers, Girard creates simple geometric forms that mimic the shape of a clothespin. The colored papers are translucent, and Girard takes advantage of the medium to create a collage of four rows of clothespins with seemingly random sequences of color. During his tenure at Herman Miller, Girard created over 300 textile designs and this work is emblematic of Girard’s spirited sensibility. Another mid-century textile designer, Jack Lenor Larsen, describes Girard’s unique, creative credo: “Girard’s statement is based upon an underlying personal humanism expressed through color and pattern, folk art and total design. He calls for spontaneity and for a fresh consideration of emotional content, for easy, fun filled simplicity… he has urged each of us toward a more personal and expressive way of life.” [4] Girard’s striking textiles demonstrate his idiosyncratic instinct for color and unselfconscious notion of design.


[1] Betty Pepis, “Architect Designs Group of Textiles: Upholstery, Drapery Fabrics Mix…” New York Times, June 5, 1952.

[2] “Designers: Alexander Girard,” accessed October 26, 2017, https://www.hermanmiller.com/designers/girard/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jack Lenor Larsen, “Alexander Girard,” Design Quarterly, No. 98/99 (1975): 30.

Lily Gildor is a candidate in the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered at Parsons The New School of Design jointly with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is a Master’s fellow in the Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design department.

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