In the 1940s, Nelson turned his attention to design practice, first conceiving a downtown pedestrian mall, and then designing the Storagewall, a revolutionary system that graced the cover of LIFE in 1945. He earned the notice of Herman Miller’s president D.J. De Pree with Tomorrow’s House, and was made Director of Design for the company in 1947. Nelson was tasked with product design and with refreshing Herman Miller’s graphic identity. He also brought the Eameses, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi into the fold.
His firm George Nelson & Associates was responsible for the Marshmallow Sofa, the Coconut Chair, and the Action Office II, which we now know as the "office cubicle." Nelson’s Bubble Lamps, premiered in 1952. Inspired by silk lamps he’d seen in Sweden, he discovered that he could coat lamps using a new method, with ingenuity typical of a George Nelson design: a resin spray developed by the U.S. military which produced a translucent, durable finish.
Apart from a Nelson Lamp, the Ball Clock—whose painted spheres radiate outward in a colorful burst—might be the object that best captures his design philosophy. At the height of the atomic age, George Nelson furniture and lighting positioned Americans to face a new era with optimism rather than fear. "Design," he said, "is a response to social change."