Design & Communications
it will be examinated under
One of the greatest designers ever,
perhaps the greatest from the United States, Charles
a question and answer
interview about Design that covers the subject and stresses the points
we are going to use on our job:
Interview with Charles
Eames on the Role of Design
This question and answer session
with Charles Eames was recorded in 1972 during the exhibition Quest
ce que le design? What design is? at the Museum of
Decorative Arts in Paris.
During the interview, Charles Eames
answers questions about the role and meaning of design in society but also the
constraints in furniture and industrial design. The interview is a complete
and interesting overview about the principles that drove Charles Eames across
his fortunate and successful career as furniture designer, illustrator, movie
director and architect.
Mme. L. Amic: What is your definition of Design,
Mr. Eames: One could describe Design as a plan for
arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design an expression
Mr. Eames: I would rather say its an expression of purpose. It may, if
it is good enough, later be judged as art.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design a craft for
Mr. Eames: No, but Design may be a solution to some industrial problems.
Mme. L. Amic: What are the boundaries
Mr. Eames: What are the boundaries of problems?
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design a discipline
that concerns itself with only one part of the environment?
Mr. Eames: No.
Mme. L. Amic: Is
it a method of general expression?
Mr. Eames: No, it is a method of action.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design a creation
of an individual?
Mr. Eames: No, because to be realistic. One must always recognize the influence
of those that have gone before.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design a creation
of a group?
Mr. Eames: Very often.
Mme. L. Amic: Is there a Design ethic?
Mr. Eames: There are always Design constraints, and these often imply an ethic.
Mme. L. Amic: Does Design imply the
idea of products that are necessarily useful?
Mr. Eames: Yes, even though the use might be very subtle.
Mme. L. Amic: Is it able to cooperate
in the creation of works reserved solely for pleasure?
Mr. Eames: Who would say that pleasure is not useful?
Mme. L. Amic: Ought
form to derive from the analysis of function?
Mr. Eames: The great risk here is that the analysis
may be incomplete.
Mme. L. Amic: Can the computer substitute
for the Designer?
Mr. Eames: Probably, in some special cases, but usually the computer is an aid
to the Designer.
Mme. L. Amic: Does Design imply industrial
Mr. Eames: Not necessarily.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design used to modify
an old object through new techniques?
Mr. Eames: This is one kind of Design problem.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design used to fit
up an existing model so that it is more attractive?
Mr. Eames: One doesnt usually think of Design in this way.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design an element
of industrial policy?
Mr. Eames: If Design constraints imply an ethic, and if industrial policy includes
ethical principles, then yes: Design is and element in an industrial policy.
Mme. L. Amic: Does
the creation of Design admit constraint?
Mr. Eames: Design depends largely on constraints.
Mme. L. Amic: What constraints?
Mr. Eames: The sum of all constraints. Here is one of the few effective keys
to the Design problem: The ability of the Designer to recognize as many of the
constraints as possible. His willingness and enthusiasm for working within these
constraints- constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface,
of time, and so forth. Each problem has its own peculiar list.
Mme. L. Amic: Does Design obey laws?
Mr. Eames: Arent constraints enough?
Mme. L. Amic: Are there tendencies
and schools in Design?
Mr. Eames: Yes, but these are more a measure of human limitations than of ideals.
Mme. L. Amic: Is Design ephemeral?
Mr. Eames: Some needs are ephemeral. Most Designs are ephemeral.
Mme. L. Amic: Ought Design to tend
towards the ephemeral or towards permanence?
Mr. Eames: Those needs and Designs that have a more universal quality tend toward
Mme. L. Amic: How would you define
yourself with respect to a decorator? an interior architect? a stylist?
Mr. Eames: I wouldnt.
Mme. L. Amic: To
whom does Design address itself: to the greatest number? to the specialists
or the enlightened amateur? to a privileged social class?
Mr. Eames: Design addresses itself to the need.
Mme. L. Amic: After having answered
all these questions, do you feel you have been able to practice the profession
of Design under satisfactory conditions, or even optimum conditions?
Mr. Eames: Yes.
Mme. L. Amic: Have you been forced
to accept compromises?
Mr. Eames: I dont remember ever being forced to accept compromises, but
I have willingly accepted constraints.
Mme. L. Amic: What
do you feel is the primary condition for the practice of Design and for its
Mr. Eames: The recognition of need.
Mme. L. Amic: What is the future
.... (no answer, perhaps Eames already
dit it when saying The recognition of need... which, after all,
it is also the past and the present...)
Charles Eames and Marshall McLuhan
On a very broad sense, what McLuhan
did was to discuss the design technology used in communication, specially the
printed technology and the technology that later brought us TV and Internet,
IPhone, Ipad, etc., which is a combination of computer, satellites and the telephone.
Charles Eames and his wife Ray became more known for their furniture design,
specially chairs, although their remarkable contribution to modern architecture,
industrial and graphic design, fine arts and film. In our case, we are specially
concerned with their special ability to approache desighn, specially at communicate
in exhibitions such as:
Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India
Glimpses of the USA (seven screens for the American exhibition in Moscow, Sokoolniki
Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond (for IBM, 1961)
IBM Pavilion at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair
Nehru: The man and his India (1965)
The World of Franklin and Jefferson (1975) built for the US Bicentennial Commission,
opened in Paris, traveled to five other countries and the US.
Using their concepts and treatment
of the selected subjects above, I applied them (with McLuhan and communication
concepts) as much as I could and was able to do in this job about James Joyce.
are less apparent than McLuhan (or communication) but nevertheless as
much important to the approach, if not more, because McLuhan although claiming
himself as a product of Joyce, makes much more sense scrutinizes under the Eames
way of doing things. And the communication theorists failed to realize what
Charles Eames claimed back in the 50's that Beyond the age of Information
is the age of Choices, which expresses together with The Medium is the
Message perhaps the strongest statement we can do about our era.
Charles and Ray
Eames in a nutshell
presentation at TED TALKS, their grand son Eames
Demetrios, I selected some concepts from his grandfather that are extremely
suitable to our approach:
"The object is just a
pivot between the process and the system design Focus on the need, not on the
style. The extent to which you have a design style is the extent that you have
not solved the design problem."
To my mind, this is the best descritption
of what James Joyce is all about. He went on the opposite direction, i.e., he
intentionally complicated the problem and let to his readers to find the solution,
and this became his style.
I cannot refrain to quote his following
assertion to this phrase: It is a brutal quote...And this is exactly
what happens to Joyce...There is no better adjective than brutalize to describe
what he does with the language...
Demetrios goes on and says:
the medium when people say 'design' they actually mean style.The extent that
you heave a design style is the extent you didn't resolve the problem. The role
of designer is essentially that of the good host anticipating the needs of the
guest. I don't thing that mistake is the right word in design. There is no mistake
in the design, it is just the things you try out, attempts to solve the problem.
Some of them would be probably terrible chairs. It was the hands-on interactive
process which is so much like vernacular design and folk design in tradicional
cultures. I think that's one of the commonalities between modernism and traditional
design. I think it may be a real common ground as we kind of figure out what
on earth to do in the next 20 or 30 years
And here we have James Joyce naked
on his own as no concept is able to show better... If we compare Finnegan's
Wake with an Eames chair, he made the seat trespassed
bottoms up with nails, which he connected to electricity and heated up to red
temperature... And I challenge anyone seating on such a chair to say that he
or she feels comfortable and rested and if fits...
How does this chair analogy fits
in the Portrait ? Almost does it... And in Ulysses?
It takes a grain of salt to say it is fit... And what about Finnegan's?
Where is the chair?
in a Nutshell
There are two files where you can
figure out McLuhan, specially for the Joyce case:
Ulysses Interpretation according to McLuhan
But my choice of preference, as outstanding,
Rap Tribute to James Joyce by Frank Delaney
of Blooms Day in Ulysses Evan Lavender-Smith (From Old
Eames, McLuhan and Design
Charles and Ray
Eames improbable and unlikely designs on reexplaining things complicated to
the average human understanding:
A World of Numbers... and Beyond
of Modern Mathematics poster