Exploited by Masters

I just finished watching a documentary on Charles and Ray Eames. Many of those interviewed were designers who had worked with the Eames, collaborating on projects and helping them develop ideas. But no matter how much they contributed, the work was always under the name of Charles Eames.

One designer, Jeannine Oppewall, said, “He may have been exploiting us. But if you are not stupid, you are also exploiting that relationship. I was happy being exploited by a master.”

I’ve worked for creative directors like this – where the entire creative department felt as if it existed only to bring the ECD’s ideas to life.

What do you think about this? Would you be happy being exploited by a master? How would that fit into your career?

(By the way, this film is streaming on Netflix. I highly recommend it.)


2 thoughts on “Exploited by Masters

  1. I've had this happen on occasion. Wasn't the worst thing in the world because the idea was a good one. And along the way I was able to influence it, put my stamp on it, etc. For what it's worth I also got “credit” as contributing to the work.

    That said, I would only want this to happen sparingly, even if the ideas were good. It doesn't sound ideal to always be executing someone else's ideas.

    It's a little less fun and a little less satisfying, in my opinion. I think I would start to question my own ideas, too. Like, crap, do my ideas always suck or are his/her ideas are always better?

    John Deignan


  2. If the 'master' is truly a visionary whose ideas require many minds and hands to bring to life, then it isn't really exploitation, is it? It's just doing your job.

    But on the other hand, if the master is the 'master' just because he's a political string-puller that got where he did on the backs of those smarter and hard-working humans beneath him, well, you've got something else entirely.

    I've worked for both, I prefer the first.


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