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“The Positive No”

Ray Eames


Ray’s expansive collection included an abundance of drawings, sketches, and notes. Some of these clearly relate to a particular project, while others are more mysterious. This example, a handwritten note that boldly declares, “THE POSITIVE NO,” falls into the latter category. Precisely what Ray meant by this statement is difficult to know, but it seems to make a claim about the role of decision-making in the design process, especially the power of rejection. Perhaps Ray is suggesting that by saying “no,” a designer makes room to say “yes” to something else that is more useful, efficient, affordable, or beautiful; in other words, such a “no” is ultimately a positive one. It is also notable how Ray’s concern for graphic composition is apparent even in this quickly jotted note. The dot that appears below the word “NO” transforms it from simply being two lines of text to a deliberate composition in the form of an inverted triangle. Thanks to this detail, the statement becomes even more emphatic than it would be on its own.

  • Medium:Pencil on paper
  • Dimensions:3 x 4 in. (7.6 x 10.2 cm)
  • Item:A.2019.2.787