In a neo-liberal market, it is not enough to sell a product, the product must offer to the consumer a unique experience and create a bond with him. Rashid’s designs don’t solely fill a task but create universes where the product is a catalyst transmuting existence. Unlike art, design is a political and economic act, as it reflects human needs and contributes to the shaping of the global market whereas art is “selfish”. Patterns, symbols, signs and the semantic of technology inhabit Rashid’s universe encouraging new forms of communication, accelerating entrance to the near future. With functionality, comfort and visual aesthetics, Rashid’s industrial designs are recognizable amidst the products populating the market and have become part of the designer’s brand, his success is directly related to the use of a vast palette of colours (a penchant for pink is noticeable) and the creation of objects such as the “blobject” a term referring to sensuous, blunt, minimalist objects that defined the 1990’s decade. New objects invented by Rashid obey to new behaviours and challenge our perspective by creating warm and human atmospheres imbued in new technologies. The perception of a cold and sterile environment contrasts with the wide range of warm colours in the designer’s merchandise, the future for Rashid is not as impersonal as presented in sci-fi movies or dystopias, rather he intends to celebrate individuality by combining and challenging our contemporary perception of taste and refinement. Furthermore, mass production is greeted and personifies a democratic ideal, industrial designs summarise for the designer an ideal society, in which customisable experiences, high quality and ecological objects are at everybody’s reach.
1. How do you think art and design are connected?
Art reflects life. Art is selfish, design is democratic. I do both and love both. I let design inspire my art and my art inspire design BUT design is a social act, a political act and an economic act. Design is about ‘art of real issues’. Creativity is not enough in design. Design must answer to all the issues of use, behaviour, aesthetics, manufacturing processes, material’s ecological issues, marketing, dissemination, etc. The more in tune we are with the commercial world the more relevant our work is. Design is about creating the physical utopia of our everyday life. I love life and I love design and I love art and music and I love and passionate people.
2. Why do you think design hasn’t evolved at the same pace as technology? How do your designs intend to enable people to “live in the modus of our time”?
People like to assume that design moves with more superficial trends but, it is technology that drives us. 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. Hence design is inseparable from innovation and technology.
It can be difficult to see style in the present. Only posthumously can we recognize a trend. But I think style and design are driven by new technologies. Designs should and do change with the introduction of new technologies. All important pieces over the last century became iconic because they were created with new technology. For example, the Bruer chair used steel tube bending from a bicycle factory. The Alvar Aalto chair used plywood tube technology inspired by a local fabricator of wooden sewage tubes, etc. The first plastic molded mono bloc chair existed because we had the resin technology and injection machine technology to create it. The Eames embraced one of the first compound bent plywood machines.
3. Design is a quintessential “cultural shaper”. How are your designs shaping culture and what are they offering to the consumer other than a different experience?
My designs are a manifestation of my soul, like a composer creating music. I called my first book: “I want to change the world” and that upset many design critics and yet if a musician gave a record the same title no one would say anything. I am super passionate, hyper driven, consumed by the need to produce and disseminate beauty and keep creating. This is how I change the world. My message is to be you and enjoy life. Why isn’t design widely regarded as a shaper of our world and culture, just as much as music or art? A beautifully designed world – products from head to toe, high end to low – can bring us joy and progress.
4. Could you tell us about the palette of colours you use and the importance of language in your designs? What would be the role of each of them?
I love pink and techno colours- colours that have the vibrancy and energy of our digital world. There are really millions of colours so it is ridiculous in this life to have a single favourite of anything- favourite song, favourite book. I did my master’s thesis on colour – and we know that climate, natural landscapes and nature all have an impact on colour biases – but now that the world is becoming more global, that consumption and capitalism are driving the tastes and sensitivities of the majority of the world, I think that colour is omni-cultural, omnipresent, and universal.
When I’m designing I am quite pragmatic thinking about colours- for example I am interested in communicating our technological age, or I am interested in creating a ‘digestive’ pallet for a restaurant (lime is one of them – a most conducive colour to dining), or certain hues of pinks that create a sense of well-being, of energy, or of positive spirit, etc.
5. Could you please define the term “kitsch”? Why are your designs so reluctant to be identified with it?
The world now walks a fine line between kitsch and art. New culture demands new forms, concepts, materials and styles. Authenticity is essential. The problem with kitsch is that is holds us back by keeping us mired in nostalgia and the same rote sentimentality. It runs on the currency of the tried-and-true, the popular, the traditional and the easily recognizable. Design should be about embarking on new visions, forms and meanings that correlate with our contemporary world. We must be bold in testing the furthest reaches of our imaginations and kitsch makes us satisfied with what’s already there. I believe that we can do better. Why do we ‘accept’ kitsch – kitsch is crazy! Design is about progress, about moving us forward, about challenging and elevating the human spirit.
6. If we agree upon the idea that every object converges an ideology, what ideology would you be transmitting through your designs (object and architecture designs)? Would it be accurate to say that your designs are phenomenological experiences and why?
I am interested in designing products as a “Rapture of Experience”. Our lives are elevated when we experience beauty, comfort, luxury, performance and utility seamlessly together. I am interested in showing the world how a contemporary physical world can be warm, soft, human and pleasurable.
7. How do you combine democracy, humanness and uniqueness in your designs?
Ever since I was a child I wondered why there couldn’t be a more democratic design that everyone could enjoy. But today, design can sell. Manufacturers can make good business from design. I have had several agendas for 20 years. Firstly, to create democratic objects and to democratise design. Secondly, to disseminate design culture to a larger audience. Thirdly, to make design more human. My aesthetic is very human and I think it translates well into anything from furniture to a building. Design does change our everyday lives, our commodity and our behaviours. There are several points I think about simultaneously – production methods, materials, human interface, technologies, comfort, behaviour, form, aesthetics, costs, mobility, shipping of goods, ease of assembly, context, use and most importantly, the culture of the company I am working with.
8. How is design connected to human condition and how can the latter improve it?
Humans touch an average of 600 objects a day and the potential for them to help us or bring us joy is huge! The big challenge of design is to create something that, although accessible to all consumers, touches people’s lives and gives them some sense of elevated experience and pleasure and is original. Designers have the power to shape a better, smarter world, to simplify and yet inspire every individual, to make well-made and beautiful products accessible to all.
9. Could you tell us about your “socially committed” product designs? Do you believe industrial design is an activity embedded in the sociopolitical context and if so how can it make a difference?
I am interested in rethinking the banal, changing our commodity landscape and proposing new objects for new behaviours for diverse markets. I am interested in democratising design; I am interested in getting the public to be in the moment (not the past). I am trying to do away with class, elitism, mass and conventions. I am trying to eradicate high art and low art – I see one seamless world with no racial or economic differences. I believe that design is extremely consequential to our daily lives. Where we impact physical, physiological and sociological behaviour, by setting up conditions of human experience.
10. Do you believe there is a product that can be mass produced and also be “ecofriendly”?
Absolutely! There is great hope in biodegradable plastics, 100% recycled plastics, deriving plastics from sugar cane, plant-based and other renewable sources (interestingly these were used in the production of plastics in the early 1900s). New research and technologies may be able to continue to help shape a progressive plastic-material world but with environmentally responsible and sustainable results. Maybe one day we will live in a fantastic-plastic techno-organic world.
11. How are your designs cohabitating and embracing the new technologies? How do you use new machinery?
Technology allows me to explore territories, technologies and materials that have never been exploited before like rapid prototyping, parametric software, interface design, user experience design, biodegradable and technological materials. My staff is using the latest 3D software for everything we do. I was an early proponent of 3D printing for prototyping. I recently released a phone with Sirin Labs that boasts very advanced technologies that don’t exist elsewhere with mobile phones today, like a 4K screen and 3D surround sound (something I felt was always missing in the mobile industry) and the highest security defense mechanisms in its hardware and software and, it is made out of precision-engineered metal matrix composite. I frequently advocate for new materials such as bamboo fiber for my new Kreate tableware collection out of my China office, and plastic injection with Ipê Roxo for my Siamese Chair with A Lot Of, in Brazil. Ipê Roxo is one of the most exported woods from Brazil. Its bark is very rich in medicinal nutrients, the removal of the bark that completely regenerates in 2 years, happens especially in the Amazonian region. 40% is discarded for being excessively moist. The percentage that is usually eliminated is now used to develop the liquid wood.
12. How are you responding to the saturation of the market and how are your designs responding to new demands?
Every good design, should replace three lesser designs, to cut down on waste, to build long-lasting relationships with consumers and reinforcing a brand’s core value. Today the business of design is based on a plethora of complex criteria; human experience, social and global issues, economic and political issues, physical and mental interaction, form, vision, along with a rigorous understanding and desire of contemporary culture. Manufacturing is based on another collective group of criteria: capital investment, market share, production ease, dissemination, growth, distribution, maintenance and service, performance, quality, ecological issues and sustainability. The combination of all these issues shape our objects, informs our form, our physical space and culture, and our human experiences. These quantitative constructs together shape business, its identity, its brand, its value. This is the business of beauty. Every design should be completely concerned with beauty – it is, after all, a collective human need.
13. How do you constantly feed your creativity for innovation?
I am constantly looking at the world around me and critiquing objects, seeing how they could be redesigned. I have visited over 500 factories in my life and know every production method possible. I research materials perpetually. Each client presents its own challenge and its own possibility. I work with the strengths of the client – if they work with glass, fiberglass, wood, rotomolding, injection molding because these are the cultures of the company – and design is about this collaboration.
14. Could you tell us about the projects you’re currently working on? How have your designs evolved over the years?
On the horizon I’m designing several hotels, condominiums, restaurants and other hospitality projects around the world including a ground up, 500 room resort in Cancun as well as a 400 room budget hotel in Amsterdam, a hotel in Poland and Latvia, and a boutique hotel in Norway. I am also working on designing 4 condominium buildings in NYC and two more condo projects in Miami. I am finishing a hotel interior in Tel Aviv, a condominium in Latvia, and Café’s in Doha and Tangier. I am also designing a huge public interactive art installation for Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. For products I’m designing new packaging for health products, new condom branding and packaging, outdoor lighting and furniture for several Spanish and Italian companies, furniture for a large Mexican retailer, tech & cleaning accessories, and furniture for several Italian and Spanish and Austrian companies
Design must evolve us – and create a beautification and betterment for society. Over the years my designs have been true to my vision but changed with technology. There were always designs I wanted to create but they were technologically impossible. Technological tools inspire me to make forms as sensual, as human, as evocative, as sculptural as possible but through new shapes that were historically impossible to make.
15. When designing hotels, how do you combine architecture and new technologies? What are these technologies giving to the customer?
I am a perfectionist and an idealist. I believe that design and technology can reduce the encumbrances of daily life. Bad design acts as stressors, it complicates tasks and brings no beauty into the world. Ideally, in a hotel design, I can utilise technology to create a seamless experience, an easy check-in, customisable experience for guests, unique and programmable lighting, and experiences they would never have in daily life.
Karim Rashid’s objective is to raise awareness on the importance of design in our everyday lives, through the conception of his objects he intends to create a new paradigm placing design as an indispensable quality of democracy. Until November 27th 2016, the Palazzo Michiel in Venice will be exhibiting an interior design by Rashid within the context of the Venice Design 2016. Digital Nature, an ecosystem conceived by the designer Abet Laminati, a leading manufacturer, immerge the spectator in Rashid’s mind constructing a space capable of giving life to inanimate objects, a space in syntony with our contemporary world.