Karim Rashid designs beauty for barren world


TIME magazine called Karim Rashid the “Most Famous Industrial Designer in All the Americas.”

With over 3000 objects in production, over 300 awards, and working in over 35 countries, he has designed in the areas of architecture, interiors, products, museum installments and more. In his attempt to break from the norm of the designer’s standard black uniform, he is known for always wearing pink and white, colors which he says are, “energetic, fulgent, engaging, sexual, and a moxie to the masculine world that dominates our built landscape.”

Born in Cairo to Egyptian and English parents, he was raised in Canada and now resides in New York, managing his private design studio. He is working to bring beauty to the world, believing that, “Most of what is on the market is poorly designed, uninspiring, antiquated, unnecessary, obsolete, or just not relevant to this time in which we live.”

He would like others to describe his work as sensual, human, evocative, and says it is his obsession, restlessness, and quest for perfection which make him successful.

Read his eloquent answers to dot429’s interview questions below to learn more about what drives this seminal designer of our time.

Why do you do what you do?

Most of what is on the market is poorly designed, uninspiring, antiquated, unnecessary, obsolete, or just not relevant to this time in which we live. Everything from the awful newspaper boxes on city streets to the awkward bathrooms on airplanes to the ubiquitous ugly garden furniture in people’s yards, to depressing office spaces and I could go on and on.

What are you most passionate about?

It has been my agenda for 20 years to create democratic objects – and to democratize design, secondly to disseminate design culture to a larger audience, and thirdly to contribute to shaping a better more beautiful, more poetic, more intelligent, more aesthetic, more fulgent exciting world. The built environment needs to be perpetually improved. Yes design does change our everyday lives, our commodity, and our behaviors. My discipline is only to absorb everything I can about a particular subject, and then I sketch for hours developing ideas. I am not interested in competing with anyone. I do not look for ways to differentiate myself form other designers. I just focus on my work, on my clients, on my ideas.

What drives you to succeed?

I am afraid of TIME. Originality is a motivator for change in our world. World is a heuristic concept – a reduction of signs to comprehend a large complex phenomena. The ‘welt’ of our human existence means the relationship of mankind with the world, or time with man. World implies time, world is equivalent to time, and wide implies the limitless possibilities of progress, evolution, and the spirit of borderless creation. Since we cannot define the world in our lifetime we define time by rigorously pursuing new possibilities new opportunities, and hopefully, original thought. Original thought is what defines time and in turn, our world of life as we can comprehend it.  Therefore I create in order to defy time.

Why pink and white?

Pink is my superoptimisitc white. It is energetic, fulgent, engaging, sexual, and a moxie to the masculine world that dominates our built landscape. Pink also clearly communicates the idea of immateriality, entropy, energy, and strong optimism. Pink is the new black! It is the only controversial color we have.

Who are the three people who most inspire you – and why? What inspires you in general?

My undergraduate in Canada was with Dutch and German professors- I had a very Teutonic bahausian engineering driven education -highly pragmatic- and my undergraduate had no sign of poetics and the ‘meaning of things’. So I went to Italy to engage the left-brain. During this time Ettore Sottsass taught me not to be too much of an artist. Rodolfo Bonetto taught me that the industrial object is a manifestation of behavior. I worked with Bonetto for the antithetical experience because I was determined to marry both poetics, and mass-commodity. I was also inspired by the brand eloquence of Raymond Lowey. They are thinkers in a profession that is too much about making and commodity, and not about poetics, meaning, human emotion, and pleasure.

What do your tattoos mean to you?

I have 15 tattoos – one from each different city in the world from Tokyo to San Francisco to New York to London, to Chicago, etc. (like a stamped passport or stickers on luggage!) My wife and I just got the Ankh – Egyptian symbol for life.

What’s next for you?

I am currently working on multiple condominiums in Miami with the Related Group, a boutique hotel in Tel Aviv in the Bauhaus white district, a 600 room hotel in Bangkok, a dental office in Calgary, as well as new designs for Alessi, Artemide, Nambe, Bitossi, B-Line, Vondom, Softline, Tonelli, packaging for Unilever, a line of kitchen accessories for SiliconeZone, a winter coat for PEUTEREY, Italy, appliances for Gorenje, glasses for Coca-Cola, and many other projects globally. I just designed some skateboard decks, kitchens with Aran, a new vodka bottle, a media lab at Queens University in Toronto, a new boutique in New York for Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and released the new bobble water jug for Target and Walmart.

You can find out more about Karim and his designs at his website here.

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