Ray Eames in World War II Posted February 23, 2016 by Daniel Ostroff
Between 1941 and 1947, Ray Eames designed 26 covers for Arts & Architecture magazine.
Charles and Ray Eames had a strong connection to the influential design magazine, Arts & Architecture. Charles wrote numerous articles for the publication, and Ray wrote two articles and designed 26 covers for the magazine over the span of six years. In many respects, the covers are as eloquent as the texts.
Ray’s designs for Arts & Architecture are more than creative graphic expressions. They are unique works of art that reflect the times in which they were produced. In the May and November 1942 issues made during America’s first year in the war, Ray incorporated military design elements and emphasized the color khaki, reflecting the uniforms of U.S. Armed Forces personnel. There were notes inside both issues that provide insights on the covers.
May 1942: “Ray Eames in designing this month’s cover has used the structural elements and drab green that we have all seen with reassurance actively defending our coasts.” As seen in the image above, the design includes the wood frameworks of watchtowers as well as the outline of a searchlight.
Ray combined these elements with a photograph of the California coast taken by Charles Eames. She gave the disparate features of her artwork unity by drawing organic shapes on the photograph, using the same color as the background at the top of the image.
November 1942: “The clearest and most concise forms often come directly out of and are part of our most serious work. Those shown relate to the solving of the airfoil; the basic formulas governing motion of a fluid, curves representing lift and drag, and the airflow itself. These are the tools of an aerodynamicist.”
At the time Ray was creating these covers, she and Charles were working on military applications of molded plywood, including experiments in airplane seating and airplane bodies. Of all their contributions to the war effort, their most successful one was the design and production of the Eames Leg Splint.
To learn more about Ray’s covers for Arts & Architecture magazine, check out the book An Eames Anthology, where all 26 designs are reproduced.