The design history of Alexander Girard

Born in New York City in 1907, Alexander Girard was raised in Florence, went to school in Bedford, and later studied architecture in London and Rome. He seemed to design anything and everything, working on textiles, furniture, typography, interiors, crockery and even childrens’ toys. As he was such a prolific designer, we’re just going to give a brief overview of his work, stopping at some of our favourite projects.

From 1952 to 1975, Girard led the fabric and textiles division at Herman Miller. He designed over 300 textiles, including wallpaper, furniture, wall hangings and every day objects. His textile designs often featured bright colours and bold patterns, intentionally offering a counter-point to in vogue and conservative modernist design. At the time, this sense of style was shocking and exciting.

The Manhattan Restaurant

Perhaps Girard’s most famous work was for Manhattan restaurant, La Fonda del Sol, in 1956. He designed every aspect, from matchbooks and sugar cube wrappings to space planning and the full interiors. Over 80 sun motifs were created, chairs were intentionally designed to not obstruct views of tables from across the room, and Girard celebrated his love of international folk art by using his personal collection as decorations.

Rebranding Braniff International Airport

In 1965 Girard was hired to rebrand Braniff International. He designed every visual aspect of the airline, including the planes themselves, waiting lounges, blankets, playing cards and luggage tags. 17,543 new items were designed in total, and they soon came to represent the best in mid-century design.

His love of folk art was celebrated again, this time in VIP waiting lounges. On his approach for the rebrand, Girard said, “My concepts for Braniff International come from two primary, and seemingly contradictory, design principles. First, design in depth, to ensure variety, interest and lasting excitement. Second, strip beautiful shapes of non-essentials, to permit the freest appreciation of the beautiful form.”

There’s plenty of information on the internet if you want to find out more about Alexander Girard, while this huge monograph presents everything there is to know about his work, complete with previously unpublished images of his work.