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Ray’s Hand

House of Cards Mock-up Process (Diamond Cards)

Ray Eames

1952

House of Cards is one of several toys the Eames Office designed in the early 1950s that helped children learn basic principles of construction. It was inspired by the childhood pastime of precariously stacking playing cards, but the Eameses transformed the game by creating rigid, plastic-coated paper cards with six notches spaced around their edges, which allowed them to slot together into sturdy and expansive structures. The Eames “houses” were also far more colorful than conventional card towers thanks to the 108 unique designs that appeared on them. These were split between two decks: the “Picture Deck,” for which objects from around the Eameses’ home were carefully selected, arranged, and photographed, and the “Pattern Deck,” featuring a range of mostly geometric patterns largely sourced from fine papers. A few of the Pattern Deck cards, however, were based on paper collages that Ray made by hand. These early mock-ups, which don’t yet include the slots for building, provide two such examples. Both offer studies in color, which was one of Ray’s well-recognized strengths. The pattern of black and gray diamonds presents a lesson in subtle variation, while the multi-colored one models contrast. Comparing the second mock-up to the final design reveals just how carefully Ray thought out this arrangement. While many of the colors seen here appear unchanged, others have been swapped—for instance, the blue half-diamond on the cards’ left edge is eventually replaced with a pale pink one.

  • Medium:Collage on card
  • Dimensions:3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm)
  • Item:T.2019.2.308