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Type the word ‘Eames’ into eBay and more than 7,000 results appear. You’ll see examples of their classic designs for sale, such as the stackable ‘DSS’ chair molded from fibreglass, which first appeared on the market in the early 1950s and soon filled school halls across America. But you’ll also find as many knock-offs – the Eames brand must be among the most imitated on the planet. In addition, suffixed by ‘era’ or ‘style’, are countless examples of vaguely mid-mod stuff. So famous is the Eames name that today it stands for a certain kind of clean-lined, post-war design. But what about the designers themselves?
This week, the Barbican opens a show dedicated to work from the 1930s to the 1970s by Charles and Ray Eames (The World of Charles and Ray Eames runs from Wed Oct 21–Sun Feb 14 2016) and, featuring colourful masks, the nosecone of a plane, whimsical kaleidoscopic films encompassing science, natural history and art, and early experiments with computers, it blows apart a narrow view of the duo as the inventors of stylish seating solutions. ‘What I hope people will go away with is not a singular picture of them as the creators of iconic furniture,’ says curator Catherine Ince. ‘But of people who are really motivated by ideas, and people coming together to make vast leaps in society.’ Here's four things you didn't know about the world's best design pair.