Renowned industrial designer Karim Rashid translates nature in his most contemporary designs and believes in sensual minimalism, finds out Nisha Shukla.
He prefers designing products which is sensuous in nature, curvy in form and structure, bright in appearance and more human in terms of comfort. He believes in making no style statement yet makes a statement which is bold and charismatic through his persona and work. We are talking about the vibrant and versatile industrial designer, Karim Rashid a.k.a ‘The man in pink’. Apart from adding to the beauty of the world, Rashid is also a frequent guest lecturer at universities.
Rashid has designed over 3,000 products/projects ranging from luxury goods, furniture and accessories to store designs, surface design, lighting, brand identity and packaging. In an already diverse list, he has also added several real estate developments across the world. While his extra-ordinary designs are synonymous to creativity and functionality, interestingly, Rashid himself describes his creation as ‘Sensual Minimalism and Blobjects’.
Journey to design world
A strong inclination towards design made it an obvious choice for Rashid, who knew his select of career at a tender age of five years when he first started sketching designs of churches and buildings. For Rashid, designing was an in-born trait, which was encouraged and supported by his father, who was a set designer for film and television. “My father is my source of inspiration, who always taught him to draw perspectives, which made interested in drawing physical landscape and objects like stereos, my mother’s shoes and chairs. As I grew older, apart from drawing I also started generating interest in reading a lot of literature related to architecture and designers,” reminisces Rashid. He admires Raymond Loewy and Charles Eames, whose work inspired him to take up industrial designing. In the year 1982, he received a Bachelor of Industrial Design from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Later, he further got graduated in design studies at Naples, Italy which marked the beginning of his journey in Industrial design.
In 1992, Rashid opened a private design studio, Karim Rashid Inc. in New York City and since then the studio has been designing some spectacular collections like the Garbo waste can, the Oh Chair for Umbra, a concept store for Giorgio Armani, manhole covers for the sewers of New York, perfume bottles for Kenzo, bobble water bottle, watches and tableware for Alessi, lighting for Artemide, products for Veuve Clicquot and more.
Despite having a mad passion for designing, a question about an alternate career does not leave him thinking. When asked if not a designer, what would he be seen as, pat comes the reply, “I would have been a philosopher or sociologist, as both of these subjects are based on humanity, which interests me a lot and I love to philosophise on many subjects. Besides I also wanted to be a musician, but had no talent in it and I chose industrial designing.”
Karim has an impressive portfolio of designing over 3,000 creations. When asked about inspirations behind his creations, he says that when he was young he looked up to the works of mentors like Alessandro Mendini, Le Corbusier, Carlo Mollino, Raymond Loewy and John Garesche -who was industrial designer but also did fashion. “Apart from my mentors, things around me like cultures, social behaviour, technology, and people inspire my designs,” he says. Out of the massive design work, the product which is close to his heart in terms of uniqueness and functionality is Bobble, which was the first bottle in the world to have a little built in filter. The need for a bobble bottle occurred to Rashid after reading a shocking research on the use of plastic bottle which is detrimental to the earth. As per the research, around 17 million of plastic bottles are thrown in a day in the United States alone and only 10 per cent are re-cycled. Being disturbed by the facts he decided to develop a bottle with a built-in filter which is easy to carry and eco-friendly in nature.
Decoding Sensual Minimalism and Blobjects:
Rashid often describes his designs as Sensual Minimalism and Blobjects. When asked to elaborate, he said that during 90’s he was using a three-D software called Metabol, in which you take two physical object and wrap something soft around them, it would appear as a blob object and then he named it as a blobject and that’s how the word was coined. Rashid’s designs are often curvy and soft, as he believes that straight lines are against nature. “Humans are all organic and soft and by developing straight things we are opposing and trying to fight nature, which is very fluid, chaotic and organic. So I mostly prefer designing things softer because it should make one feel at ease,” explains Rashid. Talking about the term sensual minimalism, he says that minimalism means something very reductive and sensual means having more of human traits like sensual, tactile and physical properties associated to the product.
Apart from designing, Karim has been involved in branding and packaging a lot of products which is a very critical aspect of a designing. “Branding is a tricky process because it depends on the client you are designing for. I need to understand the culture, the process and the history before plan a branding. I work for Prada and am doing cosmetics, I have to understand the culture and brand of Prada, similarly, when I am working for Hogl, I have to understand their culture, their shoes, how they make them, their history and then I can structure the branding for them.” Elaborating further about packaging, he says, “Packaging should always be reductive, that is, it should contain less information. Today we are inundated with stuff. My favourite packaging ever was in Canada in 1970’s when I was a teenager, I found a box of cornflakes at a grocery store, it was a white box and its content written in black said ‘Cornflakes’ along with the weight mentioned on the pack. Also I found a can of chicken soup, in which the weight and ingredients were mentioned at the back. It was so fantastic and minimal. But sadly it has disappeared, now-a-days it’s about branding and pictures.”
Currently, Rashid is working on around 63 projects, including hotels (both budget hotels and luxury hotels) in Moscow, Latvia, Malaysia; various buildings in New York including condominiums, commercial spaces and offices; mobile phone and line of eye glasses, lighting, furniture, packaging and branding, store interiors, café and restaurants.
Rashid is among the few people who look at the world from different perspective, which is very well reflected in his designs and forms. He always tries to personify and add a natural element to his creations which is practiced by very few contemporaries these days. In profession like architecture and design one has to face a lot of criticism and rejection for their creations and Rashid too has faced rejections by his clients, in spite of being at peak of his career.
For a challenging career like designing, Karim wants the budding architects and designers to keep three important things in mind before they hit the field. 1) If you have extreme passion and talent to pursue this career, then go for it. If not, then try and figure out what are you talented in and do what you are good at. 2) Diligence– One needs to work hard constantly to become successful. 3) Perseverance – don’t give up. “Even if I am successful, I still have to persevere. It takes years to establish oneself as a successful designer. Like I am 55 years old man and it took me a long time to get where I am and the good thing about the profession of design or architecture is you can do it all your life. Like Oscar Niemeyer died at 105 and even Picasso died at 89, so you have got your whole life to build your body of work. There is no real rush, but you should work hard and with time you will become successful,” he signs off.