George Nelson’s first endeavor came in the 1930s, when he was a mere architectural student in Rome. He traveled Europe, interviewing leading modern architects in the hopes of getting articles published. He succeeded, and in the process introduced the U.S. design community to the European avant-garde.
This set in motion a sequence of what Nelson called "lucky" career breaks that were really the inevitable outcomes of his brilliance as a designer, teacher, and author. His first break was being named an editor of Architectural Forum magazine. Working on a story there in 1942, he was looking at aerial photos of blighted cities when--zap!--he developed the concept of the downtown pedestrian mall, which was unveiled in the Saturday Evening Post.
Soon after, Nelson’s creativity and know-how led to his creation of the Storagewall – the first modular storage system. Showcased in a 1945 Life magazine article, it caused a sensation in the furniture industry. Herman Miller founder D.J. DePree was so impressed that he convinced Nelson to become his Director of Design. Nelson later founded his complete design firm, George Nelson & Associates, which has yielded a stunning range of products for Herman Miller and a variety of other companies and organizations.
Overall, Nelson believes that "total design is nothing more or less than a process of relating everything to everything … so rather than specializing, designers must cultivate a broad base of knowledge and understanding.”