He wears white trousers, a white shirt and a white jacket. He’s worn nothing but white since 2000 – with the occasional dash of pink. His attention-getting spectacles with their white frames complete the image of an extraordinary artist. When Karim Rashid enters the room, everybody notices. He’s a pop star among designers – and not just because of his look.
More than 3,000 designs produced and over 300 international awards make him one of the most productive designers of his generation. His work is available for all to admire in more than 40 countries and in exhibitions at the world’s leading art and design museums. As the keynote speaker at this year’s FachPack, he provided a glimpse of the design world of the future.
Perfect beauty and functionality
“Design justifies its existence only when it enriches people’s lives.”
Karim Rashid wants to change the world. With his futuristic designs, he sets himself apart from the way we’ve understood our environs until now. The world we live in was created in 2D – it’s largely Cartesian. Our lives are defined by grids. “When you look at nature, these straight, static, rigid lines and structures don’t exist. We people are entirely organic and symmetric, and it’s funny, in fact it’s actually sad, the way we push our world into a grid.”
That idea is reflected in his designs. They’re often colourful, rounded, soft, organic – yet never overloaded or disorderly. Why? Because Karim Rashid puts a top priority on functionality. His aim is to create a world that focuses on people. “Design justifies its existence only when it enriches people’s lives.” He wants to connect with people and influence their senses. And that’s closely connected with the beauty of a product, because beauty only happens when it’s combined with functionality. As far as he’s concerned, you can’t separate the two.
Design in the digital age
“Packaging has to arouse emotions and appeal to feelings.”
Rashid, who speaks not only Arabic and English but fluent French and Italian, was born to Egyptian-English parents in Cairo in 1960. He grew up in Canada, where he eventually studied industrial design at Carleton University in Ottawa. His designs include furniture, watches, home accessories, perfume bottles, wallpaper – and also packaging.
He doesn’t get his ideas from something like analysing existing works – he explores by trying and testing things himself. He explores what they represent as a human experience. What does something feel like when we pick it up? How can we use it best? Is it visually appealing? Questions that inspire him. “Packaging has to arouse emotions and appeal to feelings”, he emphasises. At the same time, though, design has to continue evolving, and help embellish and improve society. The reason we’re becoming so digital and thus using less and less raw materials is self-evident to Karim Rashid: “We have to save the world.” His vision: a better life, using fewer resources. And he urges everybody to join in. “We live in a digital world. Any one of us can change the world. We just have to do it. Innovate or die.”