The Hilda Stories

Damien Florébert Cuypers has animated a series of shorts for furniture brand Herman Miller, in which 80-year-old Hilda Longinotti reflects on her 21-year tenure at design director George Nelson’s New York studio.

Damien Florébert Cuypers has animated a series of shorts for furniture brand Herman Miller, in which 80-year-old Hilda Longinotti reflects on her 21-year tenure at design director George Nelson’s New York studio.

Nelson was design director at Herman Miller from 1947 until 1972 and worked with Ray and Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia and Richard Schultz on some of the brand’s most iconic designs. His studio also produced exhibition graphics and catalogues for the company.

 

Longinotti was hired as a receptionist at the firm after answering a job ad in the New York Times and stayed until 1974. In 1979, she was appointed as manager of design community programmes at Herman Miller and later became a liason for their A+D programme.

In four videos produced by Hello Design, Longinotti recounts her experiences of joining the studio, playing truant from the office when Nelson was on holiday and the inspiration for one of his best-known products, the Marshmallow Sofa.

She also recalls Andy Warhol’s work for Nelson before he was famous. “We were asked to do a restaurant and Nelson’s concept was a plexi glass ceiling with butterflies running across, backlit,” she says.

“One day, in walks Andy Warhol – didn’t have his white wig, was not famous at all. George gave him the concept…a week or so later in walks Andy with renderings in pastel colours of the most beautiful butterflies.” After three office moves, Longinotti looked for the artwork but discovered it had gone missing.

The films offer a charming insight into daily life at one of the world’s leading design practices, and Cuypers’ colourful and witty illustrations complement Longinotti’s reflections perfectly, bringing to life New York’s city scapes, the company’s products and its staff.

You can see more of Cuypers’ work, including some excellent illustrations for London and New York Fashion Weeks, on his website or see Herman Miller’s site for an interview with Longinotti.

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