Everything about the Way We Work is Changing. Here’s How. Posted June 22, 2015 by Marlow Hoffman

This excerpt from Metropolis Magazine’s A to Z guide to the new, diverse workplace, includes “invaluable advice on how to work, Eames Office style.”

All quotes taken from An Eames Anthology, Yale University Press, 2015

Metropolis Magazine recently came out with a A to Z list illuminating the many ways in which the work place is changing. Below is an excerpt from the article about the work philosophies of Charles and Ray Eames:


W for Wisdom

Charles and Ray Eames were master communicators. An anthology of their articles, film scripts, interviews, letters, notes, and speeches spanning four decades offers invaluable advice on how to work, Eames Office style.


On the Psychology of Objects

There is also a psychological function present in the object, but we as yet do not know much about this. In any case an object should never betray its user. A chair that radiates an ostentatious cheerfulness and gaiety could let you down when you are depressed. This I call a betrayal.
Quoted in “‘Eames’: An Interview,” Algemeen Handelsblad, 1969


On Useless Things

One of the things that seems to be common among those who tend to not be miserable is the ability to have concern (for), get pleasure from, and respect objects, people, and things that are of no immediate value to them. Respect for the thing that isn’t going to pay off tomorrow. Because tomorrow’s problems are going to be different, and the things that come to your rescue are often the things you learn to respect when you had no idea they were going to be of value.
Quoted in Anthony G. Bowman’s article “The Designer as Renaissance Man,” Ameryka, October 19, 1971


On Disorganized Information

Ours is a world so threaded with high-frequency interdependence that it acts as one great nervous system. It requires all the feedback controls man has devised to keep from oscillating itself out of existence. Examples of apparent information vary in complexity and degree. The telephone is a highly personal disorganized complexity. The controls that link airplane traffic and relate operations to weather are only practical to the degree that they are current and disorganized. In the operation of a processing plant or controls for a rocket, information in the form of signals must come in microseconds in order to be current. In communication even with a computer, the speed of light becomes too slow if the light is a bit too low. In problems of inventory and logistics, information can be slower but must remain current. A high percentage of the information possessed in our society would be meaningless if it were not current.
Royal Institute of British Architects 1959 Annual Discourse

A still shot of the house’s kitchen sink from the film House: After 5 Years of Living.


On Clients

When we’re considering a new project, the first question is: Is there a real, workable overlap between the client’s interests, our own interests, and our view of the interests of the community at large? If there is, then it’s in this area of overlapping interest that we can work comfortably. you can get into as much trouble by not thinking in advance about the client’s interests as you can by not thinking enough about your own.
Frank Nelson Doubleday Lecture, Smithsonian Institution, May 1977


On Winning Competitions

It’s really Eero’s trick, but I’m going to break a rule and reveal it. This is the trick, I give it to you, you can use it. We looked at the program and divided it into the essential elements, which turned out to be about 30 odd. And we proceeded methodically to make a hundred studies of each element. At the end we tried to get the solution for that element that suited the thing best, and then set that up as a standard below which we would not fall in the final scheme. Then we proceeded to break down all logical combinations of these elements, and we made one hundred studies of all combinations of these elements, trying to not erode the quality that we had gained in the best of the hundred single elements; and then we took those elements and began to search for the logical combinations of the combinations, and several of such stages before we even began to consider a plan. And at that point, when we felt we’d gone far enough to consider a plan, worked out study after study and on into the other aspects of the detail and the presentation.

It went on, it was sort of a brutal thing. It was a two-stage competition and sure enough we were in the second stage. Now you have to start; what do you do? We reorganized all elements, but this time, with a little bit more experience, chose the elements in a different way (still had about 26, 28, or 30) and proceeded; we made 100 studies of every element; we took every logical group of elements and studied those together in a way that would not fall below the standard that we had set. And went right on down the procedure. Before the second competition drawings went in, we really wept, it looked so idiotically simple that we thought we’d sort of blown the whole bit. And won the competition. This is the secret, and you can apply it.
Quoted in Ralph B. Caplan’s book By Design (Fairchild, 2005).

The Aluminum Solar Energy toy, designed for the Alcoa Collection


On Playfulness

There is a certain relationship between playfulness and art, and there is a relation between playfulness and science, too. When we go from one extreme to another, play or playthings can form a transition or sort of decompression chamber—you need it to change intellectual levels without getting a stomachache.
Quoted in James B. O’ Connell’s article “A visit with Charles Eames,” in Think 27, April 1961.

On Genius

The genius baloney is just a lot of work. An incredible amount of things go wrong all the way.
Quoted in Charles Davenport’s article “Chairs, Fairs, and Films,” Los Angeles, January 1962.

To read the full article from Metropolis magazine, please click here.