Design October, 2 2013

The Friedman Tapes: Alexander Girard, George Nelson and The Eames on “The Sample Lesson”

Herman Miller add to the brilliant WHY project, found at their website, with this account of a fascinating moment in time. “The Sample Lesson” as it came to be known, was a 6 day run of lectures from some of the greatest names in modern design. Alexander Girard, George Nelson and Charles & Ray Eames took over a lecture hall at UCLA in 1952, basing their talk around the idea of “art as a kind of communication.” The controversial series was a colourful, multi-media experience, a reaction against the stale, classical teaching common at the time. The progressive gang had their doubters, suspicious of this modern means of conveying ideas where “the team used film, slides, sound, music, narration—even smell—to elucidate their subject.” Of course, the talks were wildly popular with students packing out the space across the run. One attendee, Mildred “Mickey” Friedman, who went on to become the design curator at The Walker Art Center, still fascinated by this momentous moment, decided to interview these celebrated figures, her one time lecturers, to hear more on the store behind “The Sample Lesson.” Recorded in 1974, Girard, Nelson and Charles & Ray Eames offer some fascinating insights into this experiment in contemporary education methods. A year later, Mickey Friedman curated an exhibition entitled Nelson/Eames/Girard/Propst: The Design Process at Herman Miller at at The Walker Art Center, much of which was based around her recordings. Now, restored and ready to press play, Herman Miller Inc. has collected the tapes for your listening pleasure over at the WHY? microsite. We say “Press Play” a lot, but today we really really mean it.

Take a look in our gallery for some scenes from both the lecture and the Walker Art Center exhibition.

  1. Photography: Eames Office LLC