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Details make the design - Ben FrantzDale [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Ben FrantzDale

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Details make the design [Nov. 14th, 2010|02:15 pm]
Ben FrantzDale
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[music |Enter Sandman, Metallica]

The details are not the details. They make the design.Charles Eames

I posted a while ago about the difference between Helvetica and Areal—that one just looks right and the other doesn't. The differences are subtle, but they make the design.


Here's a similar example: Not all molded-fiberglass chars are the Eames molded fiberglass chair.

If you've ever been to a lecture at RPI, you have probably been to the Darren Communications Center (DCC), at the middle of campus, where all huge courses are taught, including the 500-yellow-seat DCC 308:


Photo: Chris Tengi

I've always thought this sea of yellow fiberglass looked horribly dated and institutional:


Photo: smfny

I just put my finger on it: It wishes it were this:

Photo: Me

As it is, it looks like it's this:


The original has minimal flange around the edge, a curved seat, removing unnecessary corners, a deep seat, that essentially melts side gussets into the seat/back, and an elegant back that flexes gently.

The impostor basically has a rectangular seat and rectangular back with the back held up by a thick flange that makes the chair relatively rigid, but also prone to cracking (as anyone who's seen them knows).

Eames wasn't kidding. The details make the design. Here's what his wife and his design looks like in an auditorium setting:

Renderings: Herman Miller

It will always be Modern, but by getting the details just right, it is still contemporary (if not clichéd).
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: bearddevil
2010-11-15 04:43 am (UTC)
In all honesty, I don't find most of the Eames school of design compelling. Or comfortable. I think that whole "modern" thing is just an excuse to cheap out on craftsmanship and comfort. It's too stark and antiseptic for my tastes.

That said, a cheap knockoff of ANY design just tends to be bad, regardless. Especially if it's institutional furniture. I have yet to find any stacking chair that's sittable for more than about an hour.
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[User Picture]From: benfrantzdale
2010-11-17 05:20 pm (UTC)
I understand the sentiment about modernism. I find lots of modernism to be unnecessarily spartan or eccentric. We found these particular chairs (the Eames ones, not the RPI ones) to be quite comfortable, as hard-seated chairs go. That comes from the fact that the back flexes and the fact that it has a deep seat that with no pressure points.

Obviously aesthetics are a matter of opinion; for what it's worth I find lots of other modernist pieces to be cold/ugly/sterile. Modernism does tend toward less-expensive materials, and design that minimizes the importance of craftsmanship (design for manufacturing), but there certainly is well-made modern furniture (of course, like anything well-made, it isn't free). I was reassured when we bought our (new) chairs that we had just been to a restaurant that had old ones as outdoor seating, and they were holding up well.

In my mind, a good design is a local optimum of a merit function. There are multiple great-chair optima. One result of this is that there are lots of different styles of chairs, so even if I don't love a particular class of chair, I can appreciate that something is best-of-class for that class. Second, for each awesome design, there are similar designs that are less awesome, and that an optimal design is one for which making any small change makes it less awesome.
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[User Picture]From: bearddevil
2010-11-17 11:51 pm (UTC)
True, individual taste does have a lot to do with it. I just think that certain designers are over-hyped for what they've produced. Personally, I don't find the Eames chairs terribly comfortable, but that's me. I do prefer simple designs, but I also like padding and some articulation. I lean toward the Scandinavian end of things - though not Ikea. I'm not a fan of plastic, either. I like wood and leather and tasteful textiles. Plastics may be the future, but I like to live in the past. Though I am definitely considering emplacing some recessed LED lights into my dining room ceiling beams.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-13 01:48 am (UTC)

Can't wait to have my say

Hey - I am certainly glad to find this. cool job!
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