“Good design is good business”

Phrase coined by Thomas John Watson Jr, chairman and CEO of IBM, 1952 - 1971.

Thomas John Watson Jr. set out to put his stamp on IBM – through the use of modern design – after taking over Watson Sr. as IBM’s chief executive in 1952. He delivered on his intent and went on to hire Eliot Noyes in 1956, revered architect and former curator of industrial design at New York’s MoMA from 1939 to 1946.

In addition, he fostered successful collaborations with some of the most influential innovators of the 2oth century such as: Designers, Charles and Ray Eames, Finnish American architect & industrial designer – Eero Saarinen, well-known American art director & graphic designer – Paul Rand, and Japanese American artist & landscape architect – Isamu Noguchi. In 1973, at a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Watson Jr. proclaimed, “good design is good business.”

Charles and Ray Eames had a particularly significant influence on IBM’s image. They designed IBM’s exhibit for the 1964 World’s Fair, the infamous exhibit, Mathematica, and created a series of educational films on the topics of science, math and technology. This husband and wife team revolutionized the fields of architecture, industrial/furniture design, manufacturing, and film. They practiced the business of design as “problem solvers” without comprimising their creative pursuits for “making things better”.

Lee Green, the vice president in charge of IBM’s Brand Experience and Strategic Design for the past 20 years states, “They taught that if you don’t understand something, you can’t design it…Design has to be purposeful. It’s not about cosmetics and decoration. It’s about substance.”

In their highly revered film, The Powers of Ten, Charles and Ray Eames take the viewer into a visual adventure of proportion and universal beauty, while exposing their admiration for the details of life. The film begins with this introduction:

“The picnic near the lakeside in Chicago is the start of a lazy afternoon early one October. It began with a scene 1 meter wide which we view from just 1 meter away. Now every 10 seconds we will look from 10 times farther away and our field of view will be 10 times wider…”  

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Sources
Powers of Ten website, sponsored by IBM: http://www.powersof10.com/
IBM 100: Good Design Is Good Business
EAMES Office: http://eamesoffice.com/charles-and-ray/
EAMES: The Architect and the Painter

Written by Viviana de Loera, Social Media architect at C2MTL.

 

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