Anna Jehan- Design Director
From 21st October until the 14th February the outstanding Charles and Ray Eames exhibition is being featured at the Barbican. And whilst the city of London plays constant host to a veritable banquet of supposedly must see events, as a designer this one is not to be missed.
The Eames partnership has been a source of inspiration to the design community for many years, owing much to their processes, unique approach to design and fastidious dedication to craftsmanship. All of which is summed up by one of their most famous and featured pieces, the DSW chair, a work most designers yearn for, and a key reason for the event’s incredible popularity.
The exhibition showcases all that Charles and Ray Eames created together, highlighting not only their most renowned works, but also pieces in mediums that they aren’t so famous for – like film and print design. However, what spiked my interest the most – and that seemed of most other designers there – were the prototypes.
These fascinating thought starters and trials spanned the entire process, from the very first rudimentary fibre glass moulds to new approaches in textiles and upholstery; showing how refinements of the manufacturing process adapted to the needs of the chair, and in-turn enabled a beautifully ergonomic, affordable result.
These steps in the process each tell a story, and such insights were delightful to behold. My favourite being the first ergonomic mould stemmed from a rough paper prototype – which had no consideration to the legs and so was balanced on a circular piece of corrugated metal, made from an agricultural feeder. Interestingly, on completing the work, Charles was unable to take his creation out of the workshop due to lack of funds, so there it sat for some time until finally it was rescued from obscurity 50 years later.
This sparked a thought that I’ve struggled to ignore.
The notion that such unrefined ideas – most of which never saw the light of day – were celebrated in a gallery space normally reserved for only highly polished finished concepts is interesting.
In our industry we have been trained to believe the term ‘successful ‘should only apply to a concept that is bought into and can be consumed in the public domain. But is this an adequate measure of performance when it comes to the work that we produce?
Individuals and organisations of all types produce thousands of great ideas everyday. Yet for one reason or another – be it money, situation or client – are not bought into, made, or even thought about much beyond their initial conception.
At Matter of Form we’ve had many discussions on how to create more value from the ideas that don’t get chosen and perhaps I have found a solution.
To be eligible to enter an award at the D&AD it has to have the following criteria:
“The work must have been commercially released for the first time between 1St January 2015 and 18th March 2016.
So perhaps there should be an additional award opened for the best unrealised or rejected idea. We could even open an exhibition space where once a month an agency uses it to showcase their best unrealised concepts. Providing the ideas aren’t owned by the client this would be a great opportunity to showcase our work and potentially solve problems that others may have – and subsequently generate more leads (for the commercially minded agency owners).
Flipping this on its head, perhaps we should celebrate our failures even more than our successes; as arguably the former helps us grow much more than the latter ever could. And perhaps, just maybe, the quality of our failures is more telling than that of our award entries.
Photography: ® Eames Office LLC