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“An Abstract Diagram” Drawing

Ray Eames


Ray’s depiction of “an abstract diagram” relates closely to a better-known drawing by Charles that was shown alongside examples of their work in the 1969 group exhibition What Is Design? at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Charles’s version included labels explaining that the intersecting forms represented the concerns of: (1) a design office, (2) its clients, and (3) “society as a whole.” The overlap between them, he concluded, is where “the designer can work with conviction and enthusiasm.” While the exhibited diagram offered a clear explanation of its meaning, Ray’s leaves more room for interpretation. Rather than labeling its parts, she provides an overall caption: “an abstract diagram of the way we feel that our office determines the work that it does.” This statement appears not once but twice, creating a sense of repetition or even iteration. Iteration, meaning repetition with variation aimed towards a preferable solution, was an essential element of the Eameses’ design process. This concept is also present in the diagram itself, where each form has been gone over many times with pen, pencil, or both.

  • Medium:Pen on paper
  • Dimensions:11 x 8 1/2 in. (27.9 x 21.6 cm)
  • Item:A.2019.2.150