On Thursday, June 9th, I headed to our local Room and Board for an evening with Eames Demtrios, grandson of famed designers Charles and Ray Eames. The evening was billed as a special viewing of the Eames' short film Powers of Tenwith accompanying lecture. However, Demetrios broke free from formalities to provide a glimpse into the genius of Charles and Ray through artifacts and anecdotes.
Room and Board transformed into the neighborhood lecture hall
I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, but especially eager to hear insights from design royalty. Though I know their furniture well, I never learned of the philosophy behind Charles' and Ray's design process. For example, Demetrios explained a sketch by Charles that illustrates their design sweet spot - where the collective interests of the Eames' office, the client, and society intersect.
Eames Demetrios explaining Charles' and Ray's design process (below)
The evening was chock full of similarly simple-but-powerful ideas that governed the Eames' approach. If I may paraphrase:
- The role of a designer is that of a host anticipating the needs of his/her guests. The Eames called this the guest-host relationship. Their goal was to create a repeatable guest-host experience with every product.
- Iterate, iterate, iterate. The Eames constantly evolved and improved upon their designs.
- Though we now categorize their work as mid-century modern, the Eames never professed a particular style. Rather, what others perceive as a style is "a series of problems solved."
This last point really captures the essence of the evening in my mind. During his talk, Demetrios repeatedly underscored Charles' and Ray's problem-solving tendencies, or should I say tenacity. I now imagine them as busy bees working tirelessly until the perfect solution is revealed.
Post-lecture chat with Eames Demetrios
The recognition and understanding of the need was the primary condition of the creative act. When people feel they had to express themselves for originality for its own sake, that tends not to be creativity. Only when you get into the problem and the problem becomes clear, can creativity take over. - Charles Eames