Behind MillerKnoll: Our Shared History

Herman Miller and Knoll recently announced the creation of MillerKnoll, one of the world's largest and most influential collectives of modern design brands. Together as individual brands within MillerKnoll, Herman Miller, Knoll, and all their brands will transform the industry and redefine modern design. 

While the culmination of this historic collective came about in 2021, the shared lineage of Herman Miller and Knoll makes the partnership feel destined. Their complementary approaches to designing products and places can be attributed to shared DNA, going back to the origins of both companies. 

This intertwined history began at the Bauhaus, one of the most influential modernist art schools of the 20th century. At the core of the Bauhaus was the idea of harnessing technology in a modern way—something both Herman Miller and Knoll do to this day. Knoll has a deep connection with the Bauhaus between Hans Knoll’s family ties to the furniture industry in Germany and Florence Knoll’s connections to Bauhaus architects. 

Florence’s visionary thinking had its roots in her experiences as a protégé of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, her education under Bauhaus master Mies van der Rohe, and her subsequent professional collaborations with the likes of Eero Saarinen and George Nakashima. Her design approach fused the principles of these mentors with those of the American modernist movement. Gilbert Rohde—the designer who "took Miller modern” in the 30s—also spent time learning at the Bauhaus. 

The next intersection came at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Cranbrook is known for its very tactile, human approach to modern design. Foundational designers to both brands, including Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Florence Knoll, were working in the same circle as early as the 1930s and developing deep friendships with one another. These designers—and their shared sensibilities—helped set Herman Miller and Knoll on parallel paths in their approach to design: rooted in strong business principles, centered on fusing industry and craft, focused on problem solving, and deeply ingrained with spaces and places. 

Since then, Herman Miller and Knoll have continued with complementary approaches to making products for people in all places. These two design brands have been traveling alongside one another and intersecting for over 100 years. Their shared DNA in design is the thread that unites MillerKnoll. As Hans and Florence Knoll once said, “good design is good business.” This guiding principle is even truer today and tomorrow as it was then. 

Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen at Cranbrook, image courtesy of the Cranbrook Art Museum