Karim Rashid is an award-winning industrial designer of Egyptian-Canadian descent, with offices based in New York City, Belgrade, Miami and Mexico. His diverse portfolio ranges from luxury goods, furniture, lighting, technology, surface design, brand identity to packaging. There are no set limits to its diversity because Rashid defines the art of design to be about being smart when addressing human behaviour. His trademark comprises principle design elements such as flowing lines, futuristic forms, sensual shapes and vivid colours.
“For the longest time, design only existed for the elite and for a small insular culture. I have worked hard for the last 20 years trying to make design a public subject.”
In his opinion, art should never look into the past, but always analyse the present to improve the future. His work cannot create anything new if it does not push boundaries. Through this, Karim Rashid wishes to contribute to the world by enhancing its improvement.
1. Ottawa sofa | Karim Rashid
To adapt his design to everyday life, he analyses human coexistence. With the Ottawa Sofa, the artist addresses the necessity of the living space to react flexibly to the user’s changing needs. He offers a proposal for a modular, adaptive ten-piece sofa system, which creates spaces both in the singular and above all in the plural through diverse combination possibilities. The product series promotes communication and is an enrichment for living together.
Through the various options of “reconfigurability”, the artist alludes to inspirations from the natural environment, which as a landscape also always has the same elements in the most varied arrangement. In his design, the artist again combines his creation with the Digital Era language by integrating technologies into the design.
2. “Kolor My World”
The designer published a collection called “Kolor My World” in collaboration with Grund® America, one of the largest global manufacturers of bathroom rugs. In his proposal, the artist tries to achieve a seemingly perfect interplay of beauty, utility and functionality. Rashid’s typical instruments are used: Shapes and colour; to give the consumer an optimal feeling of well-being.
This collection shows the artist’s ability to incorporate meaning and effects into his designs, based on optical illusions, form and colour play. He uses two-dimensional possibilities to influence or enhance people’s emotional perception, adding a positive effect in space created.
3. “Design Your Self”
In 2017, the designer gave a retrospective of his design portfolio at the Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea. The “Design Your Self” exposition showed his work over the years, presenting him as an artist aiming to create “design for everyone” no matter the age or the background of the receiver. Rashid seeks to contradict design’s usual connotation of exclusivity through wealth.
The pink human-scale installation represents his approach to designing in different dimensions. By shaping and creating three-dimensional space, the artist influences a fourth dimension, which he defines as time, or rather the temporally controlled human behaviour through design.
4. Switch Kannoli Kafe
Rashid’s interest goes beyond objects and products, although he is first and foremost an industrial designer. He understands design without boundaries. For him, art is everything that comes into contact with human behaviour, or vice versa. In this project, he shapes the space, not the material. The orthogonal connection of wall to ceiling represents a boundary resulting in a decrease of architectural value.
By bending the room’s edges and giving them an organic style, he creates an exciting play between inside and outside. Visual relationships are promoted, and space is closed purely through human perception. He believes that organic, undulating lines and movements align with nature’s basic structures more than modernism‘s cartographic art.
As the leading style of the 21st century, the designer defines minimalism. While agreeing with it in terms of decluttering, he also criticises it—in that he believes design should be mainly additive, not purely reductive. The minimalist world works on a grid; everything aligns because everything follows the same rules and norms, resulting in subtracting unnecessary elements.
Breaking with the standard, he prefers to make his design more humane. He sees art as an extension of the body, visually and physically. The result is his art movement: “sensual minimalism”.
5. Umbra Garbo waste can | Karim Rashid
According to these principles, he designed the Umbra Garbo waste can, his break-through design, resulting in international accreditation. Rashid’s adaptive design responded to the needs of the “Age of Casualism”. He added function and value when needed: the widening opening facilitates throwing away.
The shape of the precisely placed handles subtly highlights its position, designed elegantly, as is the bulbous body that improves the filling capacity, while at the same time creating an aesthetically pleasing object.
The artist’s maxim is to create objects that refer to current problems and deal with current human behaviour challenges. Given this approach, he denies seeking inspiration in the past, as it only contains already processed information. His products have this raison d’être precisely because he always strives to be innovative in his design with an anthropological philosophical approach. Same goes for the Bobble, a water bottle that has a built-in carbon filter.
6. Bobble Water bottle
He designed this product for the company Move Collective, LLC, which helps the user drink water from the tap without any problems. Rashid is addressing a significant ecological issue. The production of packaged water covers an enormous sector because of polluted tap water. Through the affordable design, he provides a visually appealing alternative to plastic use and consumption. The product even breaks this toxic cycle in two ways, as it consists of recycled plastic.
The slimming in the middle of the bottle allows for a good grip, referring to Rashid’s organic trademark. The removable lid with integrated carbon water filter is available in six different colours. It playfully implies a light bulb combined with the bottle, a symbol for a smart idea.
“The analog world was static, and all about permanency. Architects thought about building monuments. Digital is ethereal, light, and disposable. It’s antithetical to that and I see that as a means of empowering the individual. The past was about the collective. Now we’re all being individuals. “
Karim Rashid recognises the great potential in today’s digital era. This era emphasises on “dematerialisation” opens up further or different scope for art. The focus is not on the material, on the need to have something palpable, but much lies in data processing in digital expertise. By shifting the content’s focus, there is a chance to use the material in a targeted, sustainable and efficient way.
In a minimalist world, kitchen utensils function as objects of utility, in it lies no aesthetic value. The artist tries to break this misunderstanding of utility and beauty with his collection of kitchen utensils.
For this project, in particular, the designer sought to increase the efficiency of the material silicone. He identified the material attributes that could be useful to the kitchen‘s use, heat resistance and hygiene, and together with Siliconezone designed products which familiarise the user with the possibility of the efficiency and beauty of this material.
8. Dirt Devil Kone
“Doing something that changes the archetype is really quite a challenge, and doesn’t happen often.”
The appearance of an object does not directly determine its utility. Intending to break the archetype, the artist designed a practical item that usually is hidden in every household and turns it into a design object: the KONE together with Dirt Devil.
He combines material choice and practicality of use by reducing the weight of the vacuum. Karim Rashid uses the shape of a cone to make the object of service accessible to everyone. The undefined handle reacts to the individual and creates an ingenious interplay of subject and object.
9. Decanter Wine Bottle
The previous examples have made the following clear: Karim Rashid does not fear to break with the conservative. Therefore, he designed a special product when the Canadian winery Stratus Vineyards commissioned him to develop a wine bottle.
As the name suggests, the design aims to adapt and aid the technique of pouring wine. The edges catch the sediment of the wine. Simultaneously, the bottle’s shape, divided into four pieces and rearranged in an offset to each other, gives the bottle a firm grip for the user’s benefit.
10. Kinx Table Lamp | Karim Rashid
In digitising and optimising his design process, the artist became increasingly involved in studying innovative materials. The “Prince of Plastic” tries to optimise the light material polymer, which can guarantee the flexibility and freedom of form of his products, insofar as the material gains in sustainability. He aims to produce polymers from natural resources to be able to dispense with the use of petroleum.
This research he adapted into another project that combines design with the latest technology: the FontanaArte’s Kind table lamp. The head of the desk lamp has the shape of a loop and houses the adjustable LEDs. The diffuser contains a central opening that improves the user’s visual comfort. The lamp’s base provides a shelf for small objects and is equipped with an integrated USB port for charging electronic devices.
Karim Rashid is one of his era’s most renowned designers, with over 4000 designs to his name. He knows how to adapt his products to human behaviour and is continually evolving his approach, the materials he uses and the user he wants to address. His manifesto is based on his philosophical understanding of his profession.
“Design is about the betterment of our lives poetically, aesthetically, experientially, sensorially, and emotionally.”
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