Eames and the Design Process

One of our class is about mapping and modeling. Systems are about interdependencies, and models can visually describe these relationships. We read Charles and Ray Eames’ famous India Report (download here) that explores the design process and provides recommendations to designers working in the field. Eames calls on the designer to “shut out preconceived notions” of the product (in the India Rerpot, the product is a lota — a water carrying urn) and think about all of the object’s qualities.

Our assignment was to map the way the lota was designed. The Eames said it best: “Of course, no one man could have possibly designed the Lota. The number of combinations of factors to be considered gets to be astronomical — no one man designed the Lota but many men over many generations.”


We start with the LOTA. The Lota is like a SEED: it evolves over time. Full of limitless potential. Through the Eames India Report, we explored that SEED. That potential. And we extracted a set of factors that govern that seed’s growth. Those factors (those governing principles) are our ROOTS. And those ROOTS grow in the SOIL,the context (time, place, etc). Our ROOTS (factors) and SOIL (context) are the source of life for our TREE. Our TREEis our product, our service, our experience, our intervention. It grows from the ROOTS that came before it, given the SOIL it was planted in. And throughout its lifespan the SOIL (context) changes and the ROOTS (factors) adapt. Each successive TREE reflects a response to those changes in its environment.


To end with the quote by Bhagavad Gita that begins the India Report:

You have the right to work but for the work’s sake only; you have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.

Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered in success and failures, for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by Yoga.

Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender.

Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman.

They who work selfishly for results are miserable.


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