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Icons: Charles & Ray Eames

Shanoo Bhatia, Founder Director of EuMo DesignIntelligence tells us how this power couple from the design world shaped India’s design policy

In 1958, an eager Indian Government had invited the Eames couple to study and recommend a programme in design training to support local manufacturing industries. The rest is history; the India Report stays timeless & the National Institute of Design (NID) was born.

On entering the hallowed halls of the NID, Ahmedabad for our student orientation many moons ago, we embarked upon our first journey into discovering the meaning of design through an eloquent film on the humble ‘lota’ by Charles and Ray Eames.

For any student paying attention during that film, design was instantly demystified, as a process that seeks to solve problems at the intersection of industry and humanity. Who would have considered the multiple factors that weighed in favour of the design of the lota – its shape, size, the gender for whom the product is designed, the optimum quantity of its contents, the fit against the waist and hip, the centre of gravity when full and balance when empty, the texture, the sound, the durability, the manufacturability. This formed the basis of design thinking that is deeply etched in our minds.

Charles and Ray are credited by designers for radical thinking that changed and democratised the design industry. Through innovative use of materials and by challenging traditional craftsmanship and materials, they designed and produced furniture that was light, affordable and capable of being mass-produced. Design was no longer privy only to the upper classes and the Eameses had a distinct role to play in making home decor accessible to all.

Charles Eames response to an interviewer’s question “What are the boundaries of design?” with an answer that summarised his understanding of design- “What are the boundaries of problems?” reflects how design is a complex process where function, relevance and appropriateness take center stage alongside aesthetics. Charles & Ray Eames left an imprint on the world as ambassadors of modern design. 

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