Taking inspiration from Charles and Ray Eames

Olly | 18 January 2016

Eames Website Slider Charles and Ray Chair Legs Barbican

A confession: until my recent visit to the Barbican I associated Charles and Ray Eames purely with the design of desirable furniture (indeed, the Belong office is a shrine to the Eames DSW Dining Chair).

After two hours immersed in the World of Charles and Ray Eames exhibition it struck me that the Eameses are in fact an inspiration to anyone involved in communication (corporate or otherwise). 

Three big things I took from the show:

1. Love the process 

In large organisations, the art of communication isn’t something that offers neat beginnings and ends. Strategies, messages and initiatives all endlessly overlap. At times this is frustrating because it can feel as if our work is never done. What shone through in the Eames exhibition is just how much pleasure they took from the process of work, as well as the finished products. As Charles Eames said, “Every time I lay a table I am designing something”. They relished every detail. Even their handwritten notes are full of colour and playfulness – and made me want to abandon email for pencil and crayons. A powerful reminder: love the process and make every day as enjoyable as possible.

2. Use every medium to communicate

The Eameses had little regard for boundaries. They worked in photography, film, architecture, exhibition-making, and furniture and product design. How do we categorise them? Who cares! Their work was about communication, and they continually mastered new techniques in order to communicate clearly. The message I take from this (and it’s not rocket science): don’t get stuck in your creative comfort zone. Learn new skills, try new tools, don’t worry about labels, do whatever it takes to engage your audience.

3. Clarity is king 

Corporate communication is about talking to lots of people at the same time. This presents a challenge: how to pitch the message at a level that’s right for a diverse audience with varying levels of awareness and knowledge of the subject matter.

The Eameses had a clear philosophy about this. Talking about their goals for their Mathematica exhibition for IBM, they said: “The exhibition should be of interest to a bright student and not embarrass the most knowledgeable mathematician.”

I find that an incredibly useful way of phrasing what we’re all trying to do every day: grab the attention of those in the audience who are fresh to a subject, whilst still offering interest and nuance to those who are versed in it.

To see this philosophy in action, take a nine minute adventure in magnitudes with the Eames’s infamous film Powers of Ten:

The exhibition is on until 14th February. Do see it if you can. And let us know what you think if you go!