Last updated on May 1st, 2018 at 01:49 amReading time: 27 minutes
feeder insider w/ Karim Rashid
Karim Rashid lives and works in the US. Through his democratic design sensibility, he redefined contemporary aesthetics in a quest to make design accessible to the masses. His clients span from Alessi to Dirt Devil, Umbra to Prada, Miyake, having amassed an impressive portfolio of over 3000 objects put into production.
One of the best-known contemporary designers, his radical view is permanently challenging the consumer culture. Expanding his activities and influence, Karim Rashid has taken on award-winning architecture and interior design projects, while his artworks can be seen in the collections of MoMA, SFMoMA, and other museums and galleries worldwide.
His recent How design will change the world conference in Bucharest was the perfect cue to start the conversation.
keywords: democratic design, future, contemporary, sensual
I always start… the day with a double espresso with organic milk.
Pink… makes me feel alive, positive, and optimistic.
Every design… should replace three poor designs.
The best drink in the world… organic red wine.
Back when I was a student… I was the same as I am now.
On my travels, I take with me… 200gb of music.
Symbols… my contemporary hieroglyphics.
For me, digital is… the future.
A secret place in… my obsessive desire to do original work in my mind.
Three designers I grew up with… Ettore Sottsass, Raymond Loewy, Luigi Colani.
© BANDO E&C co,. Ltd.
Cristina Popa: Hello, Karim! It’s wonderful to have this conversation, as your visit to Bucharest brings you closer to us. When traveling as often as you do, how does a normal day look like for Karim Rashid?
Karim Rashid: I don’t have any normal days. I never have a ‘dull’ moment. I am never ‘bored’. I don’t understand the concept of boredom. But I will try: Wake up early in the morning around 6:30am. I try and always sleep 7 hours although with travel it is difficult. Spend time with my daughter. We draw together or watch videos. I go for an early morning workout at my home gym. When I arrive at the office I have a strong double espresso latte, then I answer emails, meet with my studio managers and assistants, sketch, write articles, proposals etc. then go down the list of projects and meet with each one of my staff. I probably work on the design of 10 projects in a day. Head home for lunch with my daughter then back to the office to answer more emails. Meet with my trainer at the gym then home for dinner with my family then I watch a film, or work, or listen to music and drink a glass of organic red wine, or go to an art opening or out for dinner with friends. And then great sex if possible. Then sweet sensual creative pink dreams.
RASTELLI Karan Kitchen
C.P: You’re one of the best known and loved designers of our time. In an interview, you’ve stated „Good design can shift and change human behavior and create new social conditions.” Should this be a by-product or end purpose of the design process?
Karim Rashid: Industrial Design is a socially interactive and responsible process that is greater than the physical form itself; its result is manifested in aesthetic forms. I think consideration of human behavior has to inform the process. Good design is when human experiences are elevated.
ARTEMIDE Solium Lamp
C.P: What is bad design and what are its perils?
Karim Rashid: Bad designs create encumbrances, act as stressors, complicate tasks, and bring no beauty into the world. “Form follows subject” allows me to treat each object, each space, each design as if it were the most important object in this world. I can look at it objectively and see how its form and its function can improve our lives.
I am interested in designing products as Rapture of Experience. Our lives are elevated when we experience beauty, comfort, luxury, performance, and utility seamlessly together.
VONDOM Vertex Stool
C.P: You define yourself as „a designer, a cultural provocateur, a cultural shaper, a cultural editor, an experiential maker, a humanizer of industry, a social visual activist” and your desire is to see people live in the modus of our time. In your rush to a brighter future, what do you see happening next?
Karim Rashid: Design will change along with technology. Industrial design is driven by designers embracing new technologies, whether it is material, production method, or mechanical invention. So future innovation will depend on how we as designers embrace newness. Maybe people like to assume that design moves with more superficial trends but it is technology that drives us.
Canada Post Box, 1987
C.P: Where do you draw your inspiration from? How did your relationship with Kiva, your daughter, shaped the way you view the world? What do you think is lacking in the artistic education of today’s young generation?
Karim Rashid: I love sharing my joy of drawing and design with her. Drawing and observing is still a valuable lesson now for Kiva. But maybe she will be a scientist like her mother or hopefully a combination of both of us. I hope she finds her own passion.
BITOSSI Kiva Collection
C.P: What do you usually start with when working on a new product and what tools do you mostly rely on? Can you describe your creative process?
Karim Rashid: Every project is different and usually the process is different as well. Some projects are very sculptural with little function, others are steeped in complexities of function, or mechanics, or ergonomics etc.
The key to a project would be to first know the needs of the client. I am very inspired when I discuss with my clients – that is the moment when the seed is planted, when I become very intensive, invested, and ideas flow.
All design projects are collaborative, and I always feel that if one wants to produce, and put work into the market, one must listen and understand the needs and desires of your clients. I fill sketch books weekly, and then I bring my designs back to the studio. I brainstorm with my team to map out the needs and direction and capabilities of the client. The world has changed greatly and it is critical to be highly perceptive of human behavior. This is not a trend, it is understanding contemporary needs and desires. They then create 3D renders of my ideas, do research with me on materials, technologies, and building processes, and then we refine the concepts based on all the plethora of criteria, be it social, economic, or technological issues until my vision is materialized.
The reason I am prolific is because I listen to clients and work within their constraints. The more constraints the more creative I become. So I have become quite an expert at working to meet and even supersede clients’ expectations.
C.P: Would you like to tell us more about the set of icons you integrate into your designs, which can also be seen tattooed on your arms?
Karim Rashid: I have 19 tattoos so far. My first was when I was 35 and I get one a year roughly around my birthday from a different city in the world. I just designed a new wireframe tattoo – I call it data-driven as it speaks about global connectivity, about the Digital information age. I get a new tattoo once a year, each different symbol done in a different city to continue my quest and belief for a global oneness. I attached a graphic of my symbols and their meanings. The ikons are symbols I started creating on my own as a kind of personal language that I explored with my work for these companies. Some people have referred to them as contemporary hieroglyphics. Each has meaning. I can write prose with them.
The symbols are non-lingual therefore non-biased and anyone and everyone can interpret them as they see fit. The beauty of abstraction will always be self-interpretation and higher spiritual meaning. Words are precise and forms are vague.
A few of my symbols actually play off some of the heritage of past symbols, such as a changed abstracted Ankh, but my intent is global oneness and universality.
C.P: Karimusik is the alias you chose for your musical persona. Both a performer and creator, what do you want to achieve through your sound?
Karim Rashid: My DJ name is DJ Kreemy. I played in Bucharest not long ago. I generally play an eclectic mix of electro, house, ambient, punk, electronica-dance and nudisco. I don’t think I am a great DJ but I enjoy it occasionally – I play the odd gig for Guggenheim and other Museums, special events, my openings sometimes, 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 process.
Last year I released a 5 –track EP on iTunes and an 11 track CD. The sounds tend to move from haunting and very mechanical like ‘manufacturing’ to more upbeat electropop “Love Kolor”. I released a few tracks many years ago so I am really finally excited to have release my first full CD.
C.P: Coming to Romania, what are your insights about this country? And while we’re on this subject, are you familiar with Romanian musicians or designers?
Karim Rashid: I see countries like Romania, Serbia, Poland, Ukraine and Russia booming in regards to production and design. The economies are booming and innovation is really taking place as well as a desirous want for beauty, and an intelligent human contemporary landscape. I must say I was extremely impressed with Bucharest. It is a hub of creativity, and I experienced many artists, galleries, musicians and fashion designers in just the few days I was there. I don’t know many Romanian musicians or designers but I love Romanian art.
Certainly Brancusi is an inspiration. In fact my designs for Kenzoamour, a bottle that is like a bird in space, is a homage to Brancusi. I love his romantic sensual minimal sculptural form.
Also, while in Bucharest I came across the work of Arantxa Etcheverria and commissioned her to do create a new piece for me.
C.P: For 11 years, Feeder.ro has been hard at work developing an alternative culture and discovering new talent. What impact does the internet have on design?
I am an advocate of ‘”designocrasy”’ where design is democratic for the largest audience possible. For the longest time design only existed for the elite and for a small insular culture.
If the world is going to change and live in a more contemporary condition then I must reach a broader audience. And I think the Internet and the digital age has everything to do with dissemination of this idea, quick manufacture of products, speed of technologies changing, etc.
FONTANA ARTE Kinx Lamp
For example I love interacting with my social media fans in a very real way and I am really engaged in social media. Together we’ve built a great community full of talent and design-minded people like myself. There are over 500,000 fans on my Facebook fan page so it is a great opportunity to get feedback for my work and I believe we live in the age of ‘the empowerment of the individual’ where we all have a voice in the digital age. I like hearing all the voices. I use all social media everyday and love it.
C.P.: It’s been a pleasure!
Words Cristina Popa
Photo Karim Rashid