Robert L. Peters

13 April 2011

It started with sweet corn…

Zeeland, Michigan

“Steve Frykholm’s design career at Herman Miller began with a large ear of sweet corn—a curiously appropriate symbol, its rows of kernels forming an orderly grid and its roots originating in the watery, agrarian landscape of Western Michigan. Soon after arriving at the Zeeland-based furniture manufacturer, in 1970, Frykholm was asked to design a poster for the company picnic, named the Sweet Corn Festival. “I said I’d take a crack at it,” he recalls.

Working with designer Phil Mitchell, Frykholm came up with a 29″ x 39″ screen print of a pair of teeth clamped around an ear of corn, printed Pop Art-style in high-gloss inks. Part of the impulse also came from muscle memory: “I had learned to screen print while in the Peace Corps teaching at a trade school for girls in Nigeria,” says Frykholm. The combination proved fruitful. Frykholm went on to design 20 picnic posters in the subsequent 20 years, several of which ended up in the permanent collection held at the Museum of Modern Art.”

Read the rest of the tribute to Steve Frykholm (on the occasion of his receiving the 2010 AIGA Medal last week) here.

Images: I’ve had a framed copy of the ‘sweet corn’ poster hanging in my home for 30 years; below, a composite of 20 Herman Miller Picnic posters, 1970–1989.

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