Charles and Ray Eames: The Art in Teaching

Charles and Ray Eames: What many people choose to remember about this mid-century modernist couple are their contributions in industrial and architectural design. Their designs, ranging from the molded plywood chair and Eames lounger to their Mondrian-esque home, are among the most popular, yet the Eameses provided the world with more than beautiful home décor: they were teachers.

In the mid-1950s, the couple began producing educational films that would prove to be highly effective and relatable to the viewer. If there was an idea for a film that included anything related to teaching a concept to the masses, the Eameses seized the opportunity. Their films were generally animated shorts that were digestible and clear because they were relatable. When introducing new ideas, the films would build upon the familiar and invite us to think beyond what we already know.

A wonderful example of this is the film “The Expanding Airport,” which was created for the presentation of the new international airport for Washington, D.C. in 1958. Through familiar sounds and experiences, comparisons and basic infographics, the Eameses were able to distill complex concepts into something digestible and clear.

In addition to “The Expanding Airport,” the Eameses also produced other informational films including: “The Powers of Ten,” “The Information Machine” and “Panic on Wall Street.” In the end, their art became their teachings.

Sources: and the book Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the Twentieth Century by Pat Kirkham

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