Ray and Charles Eames laid the foundation for modern design and created work that has transcended time. With an aspiration to bring the Eameses’ timeless methodologies to a modern audience, the Eames Institute enlisted Instrument to co-create a digital platform to unveil their vast collection to the world.
“Can a website have a soul?”
The Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity
The Eames Institute sought to create a web-based experience that cultivated the curiosity of its visitors and would unveil two hidden treasures to the world—the Eames Ranch and the Eames Collection.
Early in the work, our team visited the Eames Ranch to better inform our design approach. There we explored thousands of artifacts from Eames Collection, with Llisa Demetrios, the Institute’s Chief Curator and granddaughter of Ray and Charles, providing rich commentary around each and every item.
Our visit to the ranch inspired our team to create a platform that could bring the Eames Institute vision to life, make the collection accessible, and compel a new generation of thinkers to take on the challenges of our time. As we embarked on the work, we took a decidedly Eamesian approach—collaborating with our client partners to identify the website’s constraints, sharing progress early and often, and iterating through all the ways we could best bring the experience to life.
“The role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.”
The Eameses believed the role of the designer is that of a thoughtful host, anticipating the needs of their guests. This idea became the cornerstone of our strategy. Through this approach, we set out to create a purposeful experience for a diverse set of visitors, aimed at piquing curiosity and creating lasting relationships. Collaboration with our client partners was key, as we defined our audience and created shared goals.
Reimagining an established brand
Early in our conceptual design phase, we held multiple workshops with our Eames Institute partners to establish a shared visual language. Spectrum exercises helped us align on when and where to dial specific traits up or down. Not only did this bridge the gap between strategy and design, but it helped us translate the established brand identity — created by Manual— to the digital surface. Using identity elements as a starting point, we leveraged type, iconography, and a distinct color palette to express the Eames Institute’s brand and introduce the organization to the world.
Taking our pleasure seriously
Charles Eames famously said that, “Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are the prelude to serious ideas.” Throughout the project, we strived to have some serious fun along the way, as the Eameses did in their work—making room for iteration and experimentation, and finding strategic areas to incorporate moments of play for our visitors.
It was through this approach that we brought the Institute’s “Curious e“ logo to life—creating an impactful, branded moment that welcomes visitors to the website with delightful, unexpected interactions.
Matters of scale
As the Eames Institute grows, their brand, editorial, and product offerings need to grow with it. To accommodate their future needs, we developed a scalable page and component system from the ground up—providing the Eames Institute with the power to quickly curate and preview workflows and pages with unique layouts to test content, messaging and user interaction.
Capturing the intangible
The Eames Collection is the most comprehensive and most unique collection of Eames designs and related ephemera in the world. To bring it to life on the digital surface, we created a sensorial experience that made guests feel as if they were exploring the Eames Collection in-person. To capture the intangible magic, we designed an immersive entry point to explore exhibits with amped-up tactility, curious interactions, and expanded room for storytelling.
One source of truth
As a part of our architecture, we built and deployed a simple to use, highly maintainable content management system, leveraging eMuseum’s API, that allowed users to create content on the site. The result is a simple, beautiful way to curate content that seamlessly integrates with the design system componentry. From there, content creators are free to curate the rich stories behind the work of Ray and Charles.
E is for everyone
Ray and Charles believed that design is for everyone. To ensure every page on the website works seamlessly across devices, all components were designed, built, and tested to be fully in line with WCAG 2.1 AA standards. No matter the arrangement of the page, the messaging and navigation is accessible for all users.
“Instrument has been a great partner to us. Your collaboration and approach to strategy, design, and development felt like a true partnership. The resulting work shows we have shared values in creative curiosity, problem-solving, and design through play—a true Eamesian partnership! Thank you for walking and sprinting with us every step of the way.”
UX / UI Design
Full Stack Development