Karim Rashid Interview Exclusively @ Delood

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Article by Tania Droggitou
Posted on April 07th, 2011
in Design & Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid is one of the most prolific designers of his generation. Over 3000 designs in production, over 300 awards and working in over 35 countries attest to Karim’s legend of design. His award winning designs include democratic objects such as the ubiquitous Garbo waste can and Oh Chair for Umbra, interiors such as the Morimoto restaurant, Philadelphia and Semiramis hotel, Athens.

Karim collaborated with clients to create democratic design for Method and Dirt Devil, furniture for Artemide and Magis, brand identity for Citibank and Hyundai, high tech products for LaCie and Samsung, and luxury goods for Veuve Clicquot and Swarovski, to name a few. Karim’s work is featured in 20 permanent collections and he exhibits art in galleries world wide.  Karim is a perennial winner of the Red Dot award, Chicago Athenaeum Good Design award, I.D. Magazine Annual Design Review, IDSA Industrial Design Excellence Award.


What does design mean for you? What is design in your life?

I always say that you should make your hobby your job. Design is my life-long hobby. Life is about creation, be it intellectually (evolving the human race),or primordially (procreation). Creation is inseparable from human evolution,  which in turn is progress. The new tools of the digital age have afforded us democratic possibilities ad infinitum, empowering individualism and intellectual freedom. I design because I believe we could be living in a far more poetic, human, beautiful world, and one day all of us will all be able to leave our own mark, our  own creative fingerprint.

Please describe the changes in design over the last 20 years.

The biggest change is that the world is finally coming to the realization that design is not just a visual exercise, but it is about total sensorial human interface from the aesthetic to touch, to interaction, intuition, comprehension, to the total human experience. The average consumer is not stupid anymore. There is too much awareness of the world now. We are not ignorant or myopic or relegated to local markets, local goods, or local shops. We can attain and access everything everywhere. Retail and brands are in a tough position now because their staff has to be more informed than the information accessible on the internet. So now we have a more educated consumer, we are global, and we are aware of the consequences of the marketplace on the world’s ecology. Today, a designer is given responsibility. He or she knows the outcome of a product, the lifespan of an object, and the ramifications the object or material has on our environment.

Which designers/architects have influenced your work the most?

I try not be influenced by outside work. However, from a young age I have always admired the passion and innovation of many artists and designers. For example, I admire the curved wood chairs of Summers and Alto, the organic experiments of Luigi Colani, Frederik Keisler, Sarranin, Niemeyer, and Noguchi , the frugal smart ‘efficient design of Eames, Nelson, Neils Diffrient, the ecological designer Victor Papanek, the brand eloquence of Lowey, the reductiveness of Braun and Deiter Rams, and many, many more.

What item have you envied because of its design?

The Kia Pop Car. I look at the Kia Pop Car and think, “ Why didn’t I design this?” It breaks with the archetypes of what a car should look like and sets a new spirit for the automobile that is very in touch with the 21st. Century.  Instead of designing for a category, Kia has re-imagined the concept and experience of driving, into something that is organic, futuristic, and sexy.

Do you believe that design assists in the creation of a “better” world?

It is design’s responsibility to shape our physical landscape, and in turn, better the world. Human beings touch an average of 600 objects a day. That said, if you look around the world we live in, we’re bound to have relationships with these inanimate things: our favorite chair, our favorite piece of jewelry, etc. And that’s kind of a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing for a designer, actually – to get to design things that people have that kind of association with. That’s a very big challenge– to design something that, although accessible to all consumers, touches people’s lives and gives them some sense of elevated experience or pleasure.

Should design be more inexpensive or does it deserve to be paid for at a high price?

I believe in “Designocracy”, high design affordable to all. 20 years ago it occurred to me when I was designing products for Black and Decker, Toshiba, Brita and others in another office, that all our everyday objects should be well designed, inexpensive and accessible. That doesn't mean we can’t have high end objects or luxury goods, but the everyday things should all be beautiful, high performing, aesthetic, experiential, interesting, and enjoyable.

What led you to become involved in design?

I realized my life's mission at the age of 5 in London. I went sketching with my father in England drawing churches. He taught me to see; he taught me perspective at that age, and he taught me that I could design anything and touch all aspects of our physical world. I remember drawing a cathedral facade and deciding I did not like the shape of the windows; so I redesigned them. I also remember winning a drawing competition for children – I drew luggage (my own ideas of how to travel). I read books from artists all over the world. Since my parents were quite cosmopolitan I was exposed to every culture and creed. I was obsessed with drawing eyeglasses, shoes, radios, luggage, televisions, throughout my childhood, and I remember reading about Raymond Lowey when I was 11 years of age. I also admired so many artists from all the books scattered in the house. I loved Andy Warhol, Rodchenko, Picasso, Calder, Corbusier, De Chirico, Eames, Miro, YSL, Halston, Cardin, Panton, and so many other artists that were pluralists. Design, art, architecture, fashion, film, it was all the same to me. Creation, beauty, and communication.

If you were not a designer, what other profession would you have chosen?

I would have been a full time DJ and musician. Outside of design I always loved music, collecting music. So for the last 30 years I have deejayed around the world at events for HUGO, Guggenheim, Salone, etc. Music affords me to concentrate, be inspired, dream, imagine, and become completely engrossed in what I am working on. It is an essential part of my being.


Karim Rashid