I have dealt in all things Eames for over twenty-five years and my appreciation for their work continues to grow. Decades after their deaths, I see more and more how much their design work matters.
Eames matters because their designs were functional, problem solving, and rational. More than a chair, an Eames piece suggests a mode of thinking and, by extension, a way of life. Their approach to the design process was marked by rigor and obsessive attention to detail. The furniture still looks right and fresh today because it is.
Eames matters because it is essential. Their design work is everywhere—not only the iconic furniture but the modes of visual communication and design thinking they espoused. The clarity of the design work from the Eames Office is the very seed from which a company like Apple grows. Their design philosophies and sense of self-promotion have been inherited by our contemporary icon of design: Steve Jobs. Think Different. Think Eames.
Eames matters because it is fun. The real magic of the work is the expressive just-so-ness that is always present. Joy is a part of the solution. The emotive qualities of design are not always embraced by modernism, but Eames design has a lightness informed by play. Only Eames could have created the Solar Do-Nothing Machine (1957), a design famous for the beauty by which it achieved its stated goal. Work at the Office was often interrupted for impromptu goofiness, often elaborately documented for the camera. As Charles Eames advised, "Take your pleasures seriously." Take some time and watch the documentary on the life and work of Charles and Ray Eames, Eames: The Architect and the Painter Their pleasures remain ours to enjoy today.
Richard Wright is a leading authority on the decorative arts. His eponymous auction house, based in Chicago, specializes in 20th- and 21st-century design.
Image: Photography by Wright, courtesy of the Eames Office.