There are few brands more revered in the world of modern design than Herman Miller, founded in 1905, and Knoll, founded in 1938. So when the two U.S. companies decided to combine and become MillerKnoll in 2021, it was a seismic event in the realms of architecture and interior design.
Across their histories, both companies have continually set new standards for office and home furniture and accessories, influencing the way people live and work worldwide for generations.
In addition to the distinctive identity each company has forged, the combined organization now has 16 different brands under its shared umbrella (HAY, Design Within Reach, etc.). To help all employees understand their collective identity and mission, MillerKnoll called on GDP to create a galvanizing piece of media: a two-minute video that would open its North American sales conference in February 2022. The gathering in Arizona would be the first time MillerKnoll’s 500 sales executives and dealers would be together, in person, as one team.
“The video was meant to get the internal teams excited,” says GDP senior account manager Danielle Caburian. “It was MillerKnoll’s first chance to say to them, ‘This is who we are now as a collective.’”
The collective, in the words of CEO Andi Owen, is a purpose-driven company meant to “imagine and shape a better future” through design.
To help convey the promise of that better future, we wanted our film for MillerKnoll to celebrate the storied past and vibrant present of the two brands. “We spent hundreds of hours poring over the archives and product catalogs of all the brands in the collective to select images of iconic pieces, product design and manufacturing processes, and use cases,” says GDP supervising producer Zuberoa Marcos. “It was sort of like a casting process. That process was carefully balanced to ensure equal representation of all of the brands within the design collective.”
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While some of the images were used directly in the video, others served as reference materials for Spanish artist Pablo Amargo. We commissioned Amargo, whose work frequently appears in The New Yorker, to create illustrations for the video not only because his whimsical, elegant linework conveys a certain cheerful accessibility, but because he brings subtle precision to his renderings. His artworks show the furniture integrated into human activities, creating a series of snapshots of everyday life.
Marcos says that everyone working on the project strove to ensure that though the illustrations were streamlined and simplified, they still faithfully represent MillerKnoll’s iconic products. Indeed, fans of modern design will immediately recognize some timeless classics—including the Eames Lounge Chair and the Wassily Chair—among the illustrations in the video.
A poetic voice-over begins by referencing the flowing visuals for metaphorical effect: “This isn’t just a chair. It’s a statement. A family heirloom. A confidence boost. It’s a sanctuary. A work of art. A seat at the table. And now, our table has room for many.”
Caburian describes the script as “a true collaboration between our strategy team and GDP’s senior copywriter, Hannah Sanderson”—with a philosophical underpinning drawn directly from MillerKnoll’s corporate values. Key phrases in the video, like, “Design for the good of humankind” and “We live the future we design,” are, she notes, “sentiments that MillerKnoll lives by, so it was important that we include them.”
While conveying serious brand purpose, the video also crackles with delightful visual energy, thanks to brisk, seamless editing that brings illustrations, photographs, typography and color blocks in and out of frame in sync with the voice-over and music. In the development phase, MillerKnoll had described its desired brand tone of voice in three words: clear, emphatic and sunny—and every graphic and auditory element in the video was chosen to support those tonal values.
GDP also created an original score for the video. “We wanted something special, specifically for MillerKnoll,” Marcos explains, “rather than going to a music library and pulling something from there.” And so we commissioned composer Mike Gowen Jr. to create an energizing instrumental piece that conveys a sense of bright optimism.
In the end, the video was so well received at the sales conference that MillerKnoll decided to use it in other applications internally, giving the company’s more than 11,000 global employees a unifying, inspiring message about their shared mission.
The piece, says Phyllis Aragaki, VP, Global Creative Studio at MillerKnoll, “achieves everything we had asked and hoped for. I believe the great work was, in part, due to our wonderful working relationship. We truly enjoyed working with Godfrey Dadich—and the final product reflects that.”