Stephen Frykholm: The Herman Miller Picnic Posters

Jun 28, 2024 — Sep 22, 2024
Secchia Upper Lobby Gallery

Celebrate summer at GRAM with Stephen Frykholm’s iconic Picnic Posters for Herman Miller.

About the Exhibition

Shortly after graduating from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1969, Stephen Frykholm joined Herman Miller as the company’s first internal graphic designer. One of Frykholm’s first assignments in this new role was to design a poster for the company’s annual summer picnic. To illustrate the theme of sweet corn, Frykholm placed an ear of corn in his mouth and asked his colleague Phil Mitchell to make a sketch. For this quick assignment, he turned to screenprinting, a simple technique he had learned while working in the Peace Corps at a government trade school in Aba, Nigeria. The result was the Sweet Corn Festival poster, a simplified, saturated image of red lips and white teeth around an ear of bright yellow corn. The poster was a hit, and the picnic poster became an annual project for Frykholm for the next twenty years.

Each poster features popular summer potluck foods, magnified and distilled to their most basic essence. For the 1982 poster, Seven-Layer Salad, Frykholm bought peas, celery, and carrots which he diced and photocopied to create his patterns. In one of Frykholm’s favorite posters, Ice Cream Cone, he deconstructed the text, so they became chocolate chips, scattered through the ice cream.

Over the course of his forty-five-year career at Herman Miller, Stephen Frykholm helped shape the visual identity of the iconic company and became recognized as a legend of American graphic design. In 2010, he received the American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal for excellence in graphic design, the field’s highest honor. GRAM is proud to hold the entire suite of Herman Miller Picnic Posters in its permanent collection along with the Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Cranbrook Art Museum, among others.