A world in print: the Eames celebration continues with a new illustrative book

A world in print: the Eames celebration continues with a new illustrative book

As the Barbican unveiled the exhibition on the ’World of Charles and Ray Eames’, they also released a new book, published by Thames & Hudson, illustrating the exhibition and offering further insight through a vast collection of archive material. The illustrated catalogue features 320 pages of photographs, sketches, letters and film stills, and includes essays by exhibition curator Catherine Ince (who edited the volume with assistant curator Lotte Johnson) as well as the Eameses’ grandson Eames Demetrios amongst many more art and design academics, plus original texts from the couple’s time.

Featuring a folded poster as cover jacket and different paper stocks, the book was art directed by graphic designer John Morgan, who worked on the exhibition itself in collaboration with architectural practice 6a – the two studios are long-term collaborators, having worked together on exhibitions at Raven Row gallery as well as books such as Never Modern and Dust Free Friends, and Morgan’s studio is also in charge of 6a’s identity. ‘The beauty of working with Tom [Emerson] and Steph [Macdonald, 6a’s founders] is that when you see their exhibition proposals it makes you want to do less,’ says Morgan, pointing out how the richness of the Eames’ displays and the depth of their work did not call for an eccentric graphic treatment or a 1960s pastiche.

‘We approached the book design in the same spirit,’ he says, ‘not exactly a neutral vessel, but a very present grid – the cropping and framing and presentation of an "image" is central to the Eames’s work.’ The grid system was essential to handle the large body of work presented, and was used inside the book (for example, through several sections that featured square picture grids of varying sizes) as well as on the cover, in the exhibition posters and throughout the collateral materials.

‘However, it’s in the facsimile of the "India Report" we produced for the exhibition, in which the Eameses quote Bhagavad Gita,’ says Morgan, ‘that I find the sentiment that for me underlines their curiosity with the process and activity of designing and making: "Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the clam of self-surrender".’ 

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