Design & Communications

it will be examinated under


One of the greatest designers ever, perhaps the greatest from the United States, Charles Eames, recorded 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 “Qu’est 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.

Video Transcription:
Mme. L. Amic: What is your definition of “Design,” Monsieur Eames?
Mr. Eames: One could describe Design as a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.

Mme. L. Amic: Is Design an expression of art?
Mr. Eames: I would rather say it’s an expression of purpose. It may, if it is good enough, later be judged as art.

Mme. L. Amic: Is Design a craft for industrial purposes?
Mr. Eames: No, but Design may be a solution to some industrial problems.

Mme. L. Amic: What are the boundaries of Design?
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 manufacture?
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 doesn’t 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: Aren’t 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 relative permanence.

Mme. L. Amic: How would you define yourself with respect to a decorator? an interior architect? a stylist?
Mr. Eames: I wouldn’t.

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 don’t 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 propagation?
Mr. Eames: The recognition of need.

Mme. L. Amic: What is the future of Design?

.... (no answer, perhaps Eames already dit it when saying The recognition of need... which, after all, it is also the past and the present...)

Communication, 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 (1955)
Glimpses of the USA (seven screens for the American exhibition in Moscow, Sokoolniki Park) (1959)
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. They 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

Froma 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:

In 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

The Guest/Host Relationship

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?

Marshal McLuhan in a Nutshell

There are two files where you can figure out McLuhan, specially for the Joyce case:

J.Joyce Ulysses Interpretation according to McLuhan


But my choice of preference, as outstanding, are:

A Rap Tribute to James Joyce by Frank Delaney

Summary of Bloom’s Day in Ulysses — Evan Lavender-Smith (From Old Notebooks)

Connection between Eames, McLuhan and Design

Charles and Ray Eames improbable and unlikely designs on reexplaining things complicated to the average human understanding:

Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond

Men of Modern Mathematics poster

A Computer Perspective