A design may be called organic when there is a 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.

Eliot Noyes

An Award-Winning Seating Design

In 1940, the Museum of Modern Art in New York inaugurated the groundbreaking Organic Design competition to “discover good designers and engage them in the task of creating a better environment for today’s living.” The museum collaborated with several manufacturers and department stores to produce and distribute the winning designs.

Installation view of the Organic Design competition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1940

Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen submitted collections to two categories – seating for a living room and other furniture for a living room – and won first prize for both. Their use of innovative technologies and new manufacturing processes set the works by Eames and Saarinen apart from their competitors. Their designs dramatically influenced modern movements in the field as well as the future direction both designers would take in their careers. 

Original presentation drawing for the Organic Design competition

Despite winning the competition, the Eames-Saarinen chairs were too expensive to make so they never went into mass production. Still, these seating forms played a seminal role in the development of the Eames' ubiquitous LCW and Saarinen's renowned Womb chair in addition to greatly influencing a shift in modern design aesthetics and mass production methods.