Behind the design: Eames Hang-It-All from Herman Miller

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    Behind the design: Eames Hang-It-All from Herman Miller

    The queen of coat-hooks – in the sixty years since it was first-designed the Eames Hang-It-All has cemented its status as the playful piece for those serious about design writes Madeleine Hinchy.

    Behind The Design 03

    News - 07.03.2014

    Mid-century designers Charles and Ray Eames were long-term advocates for the power of play and were enthusiastic toy collectors. They not only used them in their movies and showrooms but kept collections on display in their home and office.
    Their interest in toys translated into designs that blurred the lines between education and play. A well-known expression among the Eames Office was ‘Take your pleasure seriously’, and they were firm advocates on the potential of toys to be more than frivolous items but to trigger behavioural change and serious ideas.


    “Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are precursors to serious ideas.”
    Charles Eames


    The Eames were interested in not only shaping objects but shaping attitudes towards objects. They wanted to encourage people to look at commonplace objects with new eyes. The Eames Hang-it-all is a prime example of a visually playful item that is imbued with a humanist approach to modernist thinking and new ideas on the ways in which self-directed play and activity could trigger new progressive ideals among children.

    Minimalist modernism advocated for little or no decoration and reacted to the idea of clutter. In its very function – a remedy for untidiness – the Eames Hang-It-All is modernist, but its playful aesthetic and joyous use of colour brings a beauty to the every day that is distinctly Eames like. If any could humanise an industrial, mass-produced object it was the Eames.

    Designed in 1953, the design reflects the post-war fascination with all things molecular and space age. While not a straight replication of atoms, the composition hints to that era’s interest in nuclear physics. The brightly coloured wooden balls seem to hover over the thin, white-coated steel frame. The overall effect is an asymmetric row of perfectly complimentary shapes and colours that appear to hover like a miniature planetary system or atomic model. It looks simple but the the design utilised the techniques the Eames had just learned developing a rod-welding manufacturing process to produce table bases and their wire chair.

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