Design Experts

Inside design: Karim Rashid

Inside design: Karim Rashid Author: Style At Home

Design Experts

Inside design: Karim Rashid

"Design is the whole experience of living," is the quotation that marks the beginning of industrial designer and artist Karim Rashid's website. It's an apt departure point for a man whose designs, like the Garbo garbage can that he created for Umbra, have become so famous. But mainstream Karim is not. He's earned a reputation as a style setter and rule breaker. His sometimes iconoclastic design ideas are not everyone's, but he can always be counted on to push the decor envelope. Karim was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1960, but was raised in Canada, receiving a bachelor of industrial design from Carleton University in Ottawa. He worked briefly in Toronto before moving to New York City, where he currently resides. His long list of accomplishments includes furnishings, products, clothing (he cofounded and designed the Babel clothing line before leaving Canada) and even music (he composed a song entitled "Plob" for a German compilation called The Listening Room). Equally endless is the number of awards the designer has received in the mere decade that his New York studio has been operating. We asked Karim, always a forward thinker, about the trends that are shaping design's future.

S@H: What have you observed to be the biggest change in popular design during recent years?
KR:
I think the whole world is changing quite rapidly, and everywhere there is a dropping of the traditional and a domination of more contemporary design. Furniture and even wallpaper manufacturers are getting away from traditional motifs. People aren't buying them. They just have no relationship to those motifs. People have no relationship to antiques. I think most of us relate to the day and age in which we live. You want a car that has a modern engine, not one that's 40 years old. I think it's the same with our homes. We want floorings that are smart and durable; we want blinds that are state of the art.

S@H: What do you think is driving that shift?
KR:
Youth culture, and specifically digital youth culture, has a tremendous influence on design. When you're technically savvy, it drastically affects your tastes and what you think looks good in a home. When you leave your computer screen you start to see the world differently -- all the colours and dimensions -- and you have different expectations of the world.

S@H: How do those altered views and expectations translate to our homes?
KR:
I think that we're going to see a lot of high-energy objects -– there's something communicative about them. Colour plays a key role in creating that energy -– it makes you feel alive. I use a lot of strong colour in my furniture designs. I tend to like luminescent ones, and I think they'll be very big in the future. My home in Manhattan is full of fluorescent colour; it's all white accented with glowing colours [like lime and pink].

S@H: Are there other powerful influences at work in the world of design?
KR:
There's a lot of innovation in materials. We're going to see more complex shapes in furniture design, for example, and that's driven by technology. But overall, the aesthetic is shaped by the information available out in the world: for instance, televisions are thinner and lie flat against the wall, so now it doesn't make sense to have the couch pushed up against the other wall –- that's too far away. A technological change starts to fuel change in the way we approach spaces, the way we live in them.

S@H: You've spoken in the past of the new way in which the home and the homeowner are becoming integrated as almost one unit.
KR:
There's a casual engineering of the world. We don't wear ties to work, and we want our homes to reflect that. We want couches that are lower to the ground, that are softer. I believe in human design –- that is, designs that work for humans. We're now capable of creating rounder shapes and softness. And that's more organic. It's more friendly. Children are also influencing design. Young people with kids realize that they can't live with hard edges everywhere. If I had children, I would make everything round and soft. My friends' kids come to my house and they love it -– all the bright colours and round shapes.

S@H: What's next for you?
KR:
Jewelry, watches, eyewear, televisions -– I could go on and on.

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Inside design: Karim Rashid