Design Icon: George Nelson Ball Clock


Design: Ball Clock

Designer: George Nelson Associates

Date: 1948

Manufacturer: Vitra

Country of Origin: United States

Materials & Construction: Wood and metal, acrylic finish.

Background: The exact designer of the iconic Ball Clock is unknown, even to this day. As design lore has it, George Nelson attended a dinner party with a few other prominent designers (namely Isamu Noguchi, Irving Harper, and Bucky Fuller) and a night of heavy drinking ensued. In the morning, the sketch for the Ball Clock was found on a roll of drafting paper. “I don’t know to this day who cooked it up,” Nelson said. “I know it wasn’t me.”

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.


I second Heather’s comment about the Irving Harper attribution. I love this series and would enjoy even more detail about the designer profiles and background to each piece.


I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this clock (I don’t despise it though, don’t get me wrong!) Sometimes I think it’s pretty cool, other times I’m just not so sure about those balls sticking out everywhere. However, the story of how it came to be takes the cake! (“When did I design this clock? I don’t know, probably in one of my drunken stupors!”)


Hahaha Max! I’m so glad you got it, I was afraid you guys wouldn’t appreciate the humour! I’m from Toronto so I thought I’d be at least a little entitled. ;)


I love this “design icons” series! Have you guys thought about expanding it to add ‘best uses’ in some of your house tours? I would love to see how people incorporated these pieces into their style…