15 Lessons From The Eames Legacy

Sometimes you come across things that have been around for a while that are still relevant today. Keith Yamashita’s small book Fifteen Things Charles and Ray Teach Us is one of them. Charles and Ray Eames shared a belief that design could improve people’s lives, and this remains their greatest legacy. The book was published in 1999 but the suggestions remain simple and brilliant.

  1. Keep good company. Build relationships with influential people. Gain not just their company, but their trust and respect. 
  2. Notice the ordinary. Look around you. The wonderful mysteries of life are in your path throughout the day. 
  3. Preserve the ephemeral. Collect moments that would otherwise slip away. You can do this with photos, letters, or keep items from special occasions. 
  4. Design not for the elite, but for the masses. The most successful companies create things that people use every day. 
  5. Explain it to a child. Simple is best.  
  6. Get lost in the content. This is about passion and curiosity. If you want to know about something, seek to learn everything about it.  
  7. Get to the heart of the matter. Be upfront and honest. There is no prize for beating around the bush. 
  8. Never tolerate “O.K. anything.” Aim for quality. Demand it of yourself and expect it from the people who work with you. 
  9. Remember your responsibility as a storyteller. Design is about conveying a story. Don’t get so lost in what you are doing and forget about the story.  
  10. Zoom out. Take a moment to reflect on the relative size of things to the scope of the universe. 
  11. Switch. Never get bored. Why limit yourself to one or two things? Expand your horizons. Do more. 
  12. Prototype it. Test your ideas. The easiest way to do this is to speak to a close confident about it. 
  13. Pun. Revolution starts with language. Words are one of the most important tools of communication. Learn to use them for impact, but also make it fun. 
  14. Make design your life (and life, your design). Charles and Ray truly believed that design is a worthy profession that can bring good to people’s lives. 
  15. Leaving something behind. Realize that you have a legacy. What will your mark be? 

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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