Charles & Ray Eames
Designer couple Charles and Ray Eames were known for their use of fiberglass, cast aluminum, and molded plywood in their aesthetic, functional furniture designs. They developed A Communications Primer (1953) as an educational film for use in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Georgia, where the couple lectured. The Eameses’ multimedia presentation, a seminal introduction to modern communication theory, was based on the Input/ Output diagram for the mathematical theory of signal processing presented in Claude Shannon’s book A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949).
In advocating awareness for the relationship between seemingly unrelated phenomena, the Eameses made Shannon’s theory understandable for future designers and architects, encouraging them to apply it in planning and design. Through film, graphics, typography, narration, and a musical score composed by Elmer Bernstein (1922–2004), the artists state that any message is transmitted by a signal through a channel to its receiver—as described by Charles Eames himself in his voice-over narration. Effective communication depends on reducing the signal’s alteration while it is being channelled. The degradation of a signal, defined as noise, can make the message incomprehensible to the recipient. By means of simple associations and diagrams filmed, cut, and edited by Ray Eames, the result is a modern perception of aesthetic beauty in which form, function, and content strike a perfect balance: A basic principle of color and composition, not only for the moving image but also in the couple’s designs, which influenced the postwar American lifestyle.