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Design Studies for Mathematics Films

Ray Eames


These materials were used to explore possible shape and color combinations for the animation of Exponents: A Study in Generalization and Two Laws of Algebra: Distributive and Associative, two films that UCLA professor of mathematics Ray Redheffer made with the help of the Eames Office in 1973. Made by photographing cut paper against a glass pane, these stop-motion animations communicated without narration, only lively soundtracks. The Eameses began making films for educational, exhibition, and commercial purposes in 1950. Many of these, particularly those that visualized intangible concepts, owe much to Ray’s acuity for color and form. While the first of the Redheffer films, 1972's Alpha, relied only on conventional mathematical symbols and numerals to depict algebraic concepts, his other two films mixed these symbols with brightly colored forms in unusual shapes, including oblong hexagons, angular teardrops, and four-pointed stars. Ray’s notes provide evidence of the support she offered Redheffer, which included dividing the shapes into “hard” and “soft” forms, the former characterized by straight lines and the latter by curves.

  • Medium:Paper
  • Dimensions:11 x 9 in. (27.9 x 22.9 cm)
  • Item:A.2019.2.790