To celebrate Herbert Matter's birthday—the designer would be 107 today, April 25—here is a selection of our favorite ads, images, and stories from around the Knoll Archive. It's hard not to share them all!
By way of background, Florence Knoll hired Herbert Matter in 1946 to revamp the Knoll public image. The Swiss-born graphic designer directed all visuals from logo and catalog designs to photography and advertising. In 1977, Florence Knoll recalled matter-of-factly: "I had seen some of Herbert Matter's work and decided that was what I wanted. I flew out to California."
Early Herbert Matter advertisement for Knoll Associates, Inc., ca. 1948, featuring Stig Lindberg's Apples, Astrid Sampe's Sampe Stripe, and Noemi Raymond's Chinese Coins.
Matter's fruitful partnership with Knoll is grounded in his creation of a new logo in 1947.
In 1948, and together with Florence Knoll, Herbert Matter contributed to the new Knoll Showroom at 601 Madison Avenue in New York. Matter is credited not only with the Knoll logo (upper right) but the interwoven string installation and inventive textile display seen in the background. Photograph: Robert Damora
Matter shaped all areas of Knoll's graphic design, including a series of now iconic catalogues. This spread, from the 1950 Knoll Index of Designs, illustrates the Model 198 Hardoy Chair, or Butterfly Chair, designed by Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan, and Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy. Matter remembered in a c.1977 interview:
I had to take pictures of the Hardoy chair and on a Saturday morning or afternoon I took my son to the studio with me because I took care of him. And so while I was preparing to shoot the chair I was looking and he started to run around the chair, pretending to be a cowboy and I just let him and took pictures. We probably never said a single word—he just acted out a certain story he had in his mind -- so I took the pictures. At first I thought I would just use the best—then I couldn't find them so I used as many as I could get into two pages.
Matter advertisement for Eero Saarinen's Model 61 Grasshopper Chair.
Matter advertisement for Eero Saarinen's Womb Chair.
Matter advertisement for Eero Saarinen's Executive Chair reflects the designer's mastery of form, sculpture, and collage.
Inspired by a chimney sweep in his home country of Switzerland, Matter conceived of the instantly iconic Womb Chair advertisement in 1955. The ad began a 13 year run in The New Yorker magazine.
Matter advertisement for Harry Bertoia's Large Diamond Chair.
Matter advertisement for Knoll Associates, Inc., 1965, featuring an assortment of Knoll Textiles.
Herbert Matter advertisement for Knoll Associates, Inc. Herbert Matter, 1965, featuring York.
Finally, an early 1950s photograph of Herbert Matter, Hans Knoll, Florence Knoll and Harry Bertoia.