Today the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity launched Tables, Tables, Tables, a free online exhibit examining Ray and Charles Eames' designs for tables. As excited as I was to click on it, I was equally excited to see the lead-in is an essay by Kim Colin, of Industrial Facility (one of my favorite design firms), discussing how the field of industrial design has changed since the times of the Eameses—and which elements should endure.
"Today the word 'industrial' has seemingly lost its ability to signify the promise of something better (as we grapple with consequences), whereas when we look to the example of the Eameses, their ability to harness it as a hopeful strategy signals a significant aspect of their legacy. Ray and Charles embraced industrialism and saw mass production as a way of making higher quality things available to more people, inexpensively (summarized succinctly in the oft repeated Eamesian mantra: 'the best, for the most, for the least'). In previous generations furniture designers were hands-on practitioners with carpentry or woodworking skills and were limited to what they could create in their own shop, whereas the Eameses became masters of industrial craft at a global scale—a pioneering model we continue, with requisite care, to explore and refine today. They were not constricted by the style or taste of the time, but rather, they shaped it by adopting new materials and technologies and making them desirable and human scale. They never lost sight of the fact that a mass-produced product still must appeal to the individual, and its eventual success depends on the ability for those individuals to make it their own. This openness is part of the enduring appeal."
--Kim Colin, Industrial Facility
And the exhibit does, of course, show lots of examples of the Eames' approach to table design:
"While the Eames are best known for their iconic chair designs, there is an entire adjacent legacy of tables that demonstrates the duo's same thoughtful approach to problem-solving, application, materials, and quality. From the folding legs of the DTM to the flexible system offered by the Segmented Base tables, the Eameses left a legacy of creativity and innovation that marked their three decade career in furniture design."
"This exhibit details a variety of tables created by Ray and Charles Eames, including early works in plywood, experimental prototypes from their workplace, and examples of table systems created for the vast contract market."