George Nelson studied architecture at Yale University from 1924 to 1928. He came to Rome from 1932 to 1934 for a scholarship at the American Academy. Afterwards he started his career as an editor for the magazine Architectural Forum. In the years that followed Nelson became one of the most influential design theorists in the United States.
He worked as the design director for Herman Miller in 1946, a position he held until 1972. In 1946 he founded an office for Industrial Design with Gordon Chadwick. George Nelson was also able to win Charles and Ray Eames as long-time designers for Herman Miller.