In 1952, George Nelson and Charles Eames began developing a new educational policy for the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Georgia in Athens. Both men felt that a reexamination of the department’s priorities was in order. They believed that the primary challenge of an arts teacher should be to “foster understanding and creative capacity so that these qualities could be employed in any situation” by their students.
Nelson and Eames aimed to establish principles for effectively communicating course material to students in the shortest possible amount of time. To convey their ideas, they proposed a “sample” imaginary course as a demonstration of what they were advocating: An awareness of relationships between seemingly unrelated phenomena that would “decompartmentalize” the curriculum and make effective use of the resources of the entire university.
Nelson and Eames used film (including elements from A Communications Primer), slides, sound, music and narration throughout the course—a unique application of media at that time. Their goals included “the breaking down of barriers between fields of learning . . . making people a little more intuitive . . . [and] increasing communication between people and things.”
Although Nelson referred to the lesson as Art X, Charles and Ray always called it A Rough Sketch for a Sample Lesson for a Hypothetical Course.
The Eameses often used long titles for projects that they felt weren’t finalized. The precursor to their film Powers of Ten, for example, was titled A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe. They believed such extensive titles could further express the notion that the work was a sketch, a model, an idea still in progress.