Ray Komai (1918 – 2010 ) was a Japanese American; he was a graphic, industrial and interior designer. He studied in Los Angeles at the Art Center College. He was known for his iconic plywood chair, tables upholstered seating and textile and wallpaper designs. He was born in Los Angeles.

Education

He studied interior, industrial, and commercial art at the Art Centre School, which was formed in 1931, from 1936 to 1941. Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kim Weber, R.M. Schindler, and former student Alvin Lustig offered master classes as part of the faculty. He was incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Centre in California for eight months in 1942, one of eleven internment camps in the United States during WWII.

Biography

He settled in New York in 1944, where he worked in advertising and set up a graphic design and advertising office (with Carter Winter). J.G. Furniture created Komai’s 1949 moulded plywood chair with a split seat and bent metal legs. They produced his other designs of chairs, tables and upholstered seating as well.

From 1945, for Laverne International New York, he designed wallpaper and textiles in figurative and abstract motifs (inspired by paintings by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Cubist painters).

He was associate art director for the Advertising Forum from 1952 to 1960.

He was a designer at the U.S. Information Agency from 1963 to 1976 and created cultural exhibits in Germany, Austria, India and Japan.

A selection of his work

Graphic design

Ray Komai design for America poster
Ray Komai design for America poster
Ray Komai fabric design
Ray Komai fabric design
Ray Komai fabric design sample
Ray Komai fabric design sample

Furniture

Chairs model no 939 set of 4 by Ray Komai
Chairs model no 939 set of 4 by Ray Komai
Ray Komai's one-piece plywood chairRay Komai’s one-piece plywood chair Sun, Apr 23, 1950 โ€“ Page 183 ยท The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ยท Newspapers.com

Selection of Graphic Mid Century Rugs by Ray Komai (1stDIBS)

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Additional Reading

Clouse, D. (2017). Ray Komai: Design for America. Counselor Books. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/316WvkQ.

Heller, S., & D’Onofrio, G. (2017). The moderns: Midcentury american graphic design. Abrams. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3cXpfyX.

Obniski, M. (2018). Serious play: Design in midcentury America. Yale University Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3lhTyVt.

Richardson, L. R. (2016). 100 Midcentury chairs and their Stories. Pavilion. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3FUfOge.

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