Monday, February 15, 2016

Five things that Charles & Ray teach us about play (5/5)

Charles often implored us to “Innovate as a last resort.” It may be true that “More horrors are done in the name of innovation than any other,” but focused play can lead to innovations that positively impact society as a whole.

In 1957, the Eameses accepted a commission to help the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) with a new marketing initiative. They decided to create what they called the Solar Do Nothing Machine—a deceptive name, given that this colorful, whimsical kinetic toy was powered by solar cells. The husband-and-wife team tried making the machine with everything from steam and flash boilers to turbines and air motors before determining what would work best.

Charles noted that, “A demonstration of solar energy as a practical source of power appeared to be a not uninteresting way of promoting resource conservation.”

And he was right. Through play, Charles and Ray engineered something remarkably forward-thinking for their time—something that we continue to apply to our world today.