Contemporary design owes a lot to husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames. Furniture, accessories, films, books, textiles and buildings designed and produced by Eames are considered to be some of the most important contributions to the development of American modernism. Today their grandson, Eames Demetrios, is the director of the Eames office, which upholds the work of Charles and Ray. Demetrios was in Hong Kong last month to open 'Essential Eames', an exhibition chronicling the life and work of the design duo. 'It is important to recognise that Charles and Ray did not simply design objects, but ideas and experiences,' he says. 'They believed that design addressed itself to the need that at its heart, was essentially about solving problems.' As Charles once said: 'The extent to which you have a design style is the extent to which you have not solved the problem.' The Eameses constantly strove to improve the quality of life through their creations, which were simply intended to work better than their predecessors. To them, the role of the designer was akin to that of a good host who always anticipated the needs of a guest. And it is this view that Demetrios attributes to their lasting appeal and success. 'The deep commitment to the guest/host relationship is in every aspect of design. Charles and Ray were not trying to design one good chair. They were trying to design a system to give people the same excellent guest/host experience again and again.' Charles and Ray Eames set out to make everyday objects that were both high quality and affordable. They developed a refined design process that consisted of creating countless prototypes in order to find the design that worked best. In stark contrast to the upholstered and cushioned armchairs of the day, the Eameses' designs married simplicity with functionality, possessing forms that were comfortable, used minimal material and supported the body. One of their first designs, the Organic Chair, still sells to consumers and collectors around the world today - a testament to the lasting power of their principles. The Eameses first big break came after they created a tool out of scrap wood and a bicycle pump that could mould plywood. The American navy enlisted them to design splints, stretchers and experimental glider shells using the technique, and soon after, the now-famous moulded plywood chair was launched. This set a course for the next three decades, during which the Eamses and a long list of collaborators produced an extensive body of works for which they have become known. Houses designed by the Eameses as part of The Case Study House programme, including Eames House, had a huge influence over US architecture and reveal a central aspect of their agile approach to design. Hong Kong University Professor David Erdman of architectural firm David Clovers calls Charles and Ray's influence a 'crucial component of American modernism'. 'The dream of mechanising and speeding up architecture is a core part of the dream of modernism,' says Erdman. 'The Eamses did this by not only using mass production to speed up the construction of a home, but through the feel of the open case study homes and finally through their 'loose' attitude of design, which sets them apart from earlier modernists.' However, the legacy of the Eameses extends far beyond the design industry. Demetrios claims that Charles and Ray's view that designers were responsible for anticipating and answering human needs is a universal concept. 'It is something that anyone who comes to the Eames exhibit or reads this interview can take into their own work - whether they own a restaurant or work behind the counter of a rent-a-car company,' says Demetrios. 'The idea of one being a host immediately puts the human being in the centre of not just the design experience, but the life experience.' Essential Eames is at the Hong Kong Design Institute til December 3. Aluminium Chair, 1958 This chair has remained popular through a combination of cushioned leather with a sleek aluminium frame. Eames Chaise, 1968 Made with comfort in mind, this chaise's curved form and strategically placed cushions almost force the user to relax. Moulded Plastic Chairs, 1971 Shaped to hug the body, these recycled plastic chairs are strong, long lasting and easy to store. Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, 1956 A deep, soft chair made with leather and wood, this set is popular today in a range of finishes and colours. Moulded Plastic Coffee Table, 1941-45 Part of the moulded plywood collection that helped bring the Eamses' to the attention of manufacturer Herman Miller.