In the last 100 years, countless IBMers have contributed to the innovations and milestones that comprise our century of progress. Below are some reflections from the great minds involved in this Icon of Progress.
“The spirit of our company is expressed to employees and the general public alike in considerable measure through the appearance of our architecture, products, printed matter and displays. Truly good appearance can be a silent partner working for us.”
“[Good design] must take into account human beings, whether they be our employees or our customers who use our products. Our machines should be nothing more than tools for extending the powers of the human beings who use them. As a consequence, our design, our colors, our building interiors are intended to complement human activity, rather than dominate it.”
“I wanted factories, products and sales offices all done in such a way that a person could look at any of them and say instantly, ‘That’s IBM!.’ But Noyes said this would be self-defeating. If we tried to fit a single uniform image, it would eventually become tired and dated. Instead, he suggested that IBM’s theme be simply the best in modern design. Whenever we needed something built or decorated, we would commission the best architects, designers and artists, and give them a relatively free hand to explore new ideas in their own styles."
“The programme as a whole is, I think, set up for two main reasons. One, is to give a personality—to state the attitude that represents IBM; second, is the assurance of recognition of this personality in its statements, to give a clear identity to IBM in every case that we can.”
SPEECH FOR IBM DESIGN SEMINAR, ENDICOTT, NYMARCH 1957
“Good design adds value of some kind, gives meaning, and, not incidentally, can be sheer pleasure to behold; it respects the viewer’s sensibilities and rewards the entrepreneur.”
Design, Form and Chaos, Paul Rand1993
“A design may be called organic when there is an harmonious organization of the parts within the whole, according to structure, material and purpose. Within this definition there can be no vain ornamentation or superfluity, but the part of beauty is none the less great—in ideal choice of material, in visual refinement, and in the rational elegance of things intended for use.”
Organic Design in Home Furnishings Competition catalog1941
In 1969, Charles Eames was interviewed by Madame L’Amic of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Their famous Q&A, excerpted here, offers an intriguing glimpse into the Eameses’ ideological framework.
Q: What is your definition of design?
A: A plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose.
Q: What are the boundaries of design?
A: What are the boundaries of problems?
Q: Does the creation of design admit constraint?
A: Design depends largely on constraints.
Q: What constraints?
A: The sum of all constraints. Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem: the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible (and) his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints—the constraints of price, size, strength, balance, surface, time, etc.; each problem has its own peculiar list.
Q: To whom does design address itself: to the greatest number (the masses)? The specialists…the enlightened amateur…a privileged social class?
A: To the need.
“Throughout its relationship with Charles and Ray Eames, IBM believed that if you educate society, you not only do a positive good, you also create a group of people who are better able to appreciate the work and products of IBM.”
“Powers of 10 Day: An adventure in magnitudes,” Ideas from IBM
“When somebody sees an IBM product, his first impression should be that it’s the very best of its kind. And that includes not only our customers and the public, but IBMers as well. For the appearance of our products is an integral part of the overall quality we know is there.”
“Any product with the IBM logo is an ambassador of the corporation. And each product’s design in an integral element of its quality. It’s not simply a matter of aesthetics; design reflects and enhances the company’s reputation and prestige.”
Think magazine, No. 4, 1992