Eames x IBM – Communicating Technology

Posted June 16, 2014

A multidisciplinary team of five graduate students created, designed and built the first public exhibition of the vast, pioneering design work done by the Eames Office for IBM from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The excerpt below is from a thesis project by MICHAEL TURRI and LAURA MARTINI, who graduated in 2011 with an MS in Design from Stanford’s d.school. The two students led a multidisciplinary team of five graduate students to create, design and build the first public exhibition of the vast, pioneering design work done by the Eames Office for IBM from the 1950s to the 1970s. 

The project was made possible by a grant from The Stanford Institute for Creativity and The Arts (SiCa) with support from IBM, Herman Miller, LUNAR, the Eames Office and The Cantor Arts Center. In conjunction with the exhibition opening, Turri and Martini held a public symposium with speakers that included David Kelley (Stanford/IDEO), Eames Demetrios (Eames Office), Alex Bochannek (Computer History Museum), Steve Cabella (Eames Collector), Daniel Ostroff (Author), Fred Turner (Stanford) and Terrence McArdle (Inventor), offering “an intimate and seldom explored view of the communications design works of Charles and Ray Eames.”



“The focus of the thesis project was to reimagine the museum experience, leveraging technology and storytelling techniques to help users engage with the ultimately human narrative connecting the objects presented. We spent three academic quarters forging relationships, conducting foundational research, and prototyping low-fidelity, often low-tech interventions within museums to help us better understand visitors’ motivations and expectations.

Beyond gleaning insights from existing research on visitor-behavior in museums, we conducted primary research through ethnography and interventions in art and science museums, stores, restaurants, airports, etc. We also did extensive subject-matter research at the Library of Congress, IBM Corporate Archives and the John and Marilyn Neuhart Collection. A significant amount of fundamental research was completed in conjunction with Professor Jennifer Aaker’s “Designing Happiness” class in the Graduate School of Business.”



“Leveraging the research done for this class, the team completed another quarter of research and prototyping interventions, seeking ways to better engage museum visitors. The four most important findings were:

1) Visitors are often overwhelmed and disoriented when arriving at a museum/exhibition, anxious to make best use of their limited time. Providing a starting point and a few additional highlights (or “playlists”) greatly improves their ability to navigate the exhibit and increases satisfaction.

2) Visitors want to know the story behind the objects that interest them, not just the biographical information presented on a placard (tombstone). Small anecdotes and short, interesting “tidbits” are all visitors need to engage an exhibition in a new and meaningful way.

3) People are increasingly relying upon their smartphones to navigate and augment their real-world experiences. Visitors enjoy using their smart phones to uncover the hidden stories behind the objects that interest them, share what they’ve learned and continue exploring exhibitions in this fashion.

4) Everyone wants to take home a piece of the exhibition.”

Read the full article about Turri and Martini’s thesis work by clicking here, and check out their video below.