Michigan’s Modern Design

Michigan has long been known for its place in history as America’s manufacturing mecca. Its central role in the growth and prosperity of the American auto industry constitutes a large part of Michigan’s history, but overshadows other contributions that the state has made. The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office looks to change this one-dimensional narrative of their state through the Michigan Modern project.


Courtesy of Michigan Modern

The Michigan Modern book that came out this fall is a compilation of essays, interviews, and photographs that delve into Michigan’s influences on the current design landscape across media. Architects, furniture designers, automobile designers, and educators all share their perspectives on how, early in the 20th century, Michigan was a hotbed of modernism and how its influence can be seen in modernist design across the country and the world. In an essay entitled “Michigan Modernism”, Alan Hess traces back the roots of the proliferation of modern design in Michigan to the states familiarity with industrial business. The assembly lines of Detroit had been churning out vehicles since the Model-T and from that time forward innovation was the name of the game. This push for constant innovation combined with the financial success of the auto industry made Michigan the perfect place for big dreamers in all industries to come together. Risk taking architects, furniture makers, and designers were given the chance to make their dreams become a reality. The automobile designs became iconic; the buildings became groundbreaking and the furniture became the gold standard of beautiful practicality.


Courtesy of Michigan Modern

This book is an adventure in a history that has not been told. Each page brings a new revelation, a new connection, and a new insight into the world of American Modernism. The life we live and the designs that surrounded by every day are informed by this era of design and production in Michigan and we now have a way to explore our heritage.