Announcing a New Book about Ray Komai, on the 75th Anniversary of Order 9066

Today is the 75th anniversary of the signing by President Franklin Roosevelt of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the wartime relocation of people of Japanese descent away from the American west coast and into inland internment camps. Eventually, over 117,000 Japanese-Americans were detained or imprisoned. U.S. citizenship was no safeguard against relocation by government officials, who were shocked by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and influenced by anti-Asian attitudes in the United States that existed long before the beginning of World War II.

This is an appropriate day to announce my upcoming title on Counselor Books, now in final production. Is is about Ray Komai (1918-2010), a graphic designer and one of the many Japanese-Americans affected by Order 9066. Komai was from a well-known and fiercely pro-American newspaper publishing family in Los Angeles. He went on to become a highly-respected graphic designer and was only one of several internment camp prisoners who made a mark in the history of American design.

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Ray’s father, Toyosaku Komai, being fingerprinted in August, 1940 in a Los Angeles post office, as required by the Alien Registration Act, or Smith Act. Toyosaku Komai had been president of the Los Angeles Japanese-American newspaper Rafu Shimpo since 1922 and was later arrested on the night of the Pearl Harbor attack. He was imprisoned without trial for the rest of the war. Photograph courtesy Rafu Shimpo.

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Ray working as a graphic designer at a New York City advertising agency in 1944. The U.S. government photographed former detainees to show their successful reintegration into American society. Photograph courtesy UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

My book, Ray Komai: Design for America, describes Komai’s career and reproduces many examples of his work, including magazine covers, ads, books, textiles, furniture, and designs for the United States Information Agency. Ray Komai will be available this spring in softcover and e-book formats.

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Three of Komai’s 47 cover designs for Architectural Forum magazine, 1958–1959.

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The design team of the American pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, 1969 or 1970. Left to right: David Geiger, Samuel Brody, Jack Masey, Rudolph de Harak, Lewis Davis, Japanese official, Ivan Chermayeff, and Ray Komai. Ray was working for the U.S. Information Agency at this time. Photograph: USIA, courtesy the Masey Archives.

This is my third book on graphic design history. I am a graphic designer and the president of the Type Director’s Club (TDC) in New York, and began researching Komai after discovering a poster Komai designed for the TDC in 1958. I was impressed with the quality of Ray’s work and intrigued by the questions it raised about the internment of Japanese-Americans. Was his willingness to work for the U.S. government evidence that the internment experience wasn’t that bad? Or does his successful career quietly subvert racism and prove the fundamental injustice of Order 9066?

Not one Japanese-American was ever convicted of sabotage, the badly-planned and poorly-built internment camps eventually closed, and under Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush the U.S. government formally apologized for the internment program. Executive Order 9066 was, to quote a 1996 study of camp Manzanar by the U.S. Department of the Interior, “a sweeping, and unprecedented, delegation of presidential power to an appointed subordinate. Although its authority was used only against Japanese Americans, it was an instrument that could have affected any American.”



Categories: Announcements, articles, Doug Clouse, featured, Ray Komai: Design for America

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  1. New Release, Free Kindle! “Ray Komai: Design for America”

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