Minimalissimo Meets Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid is one of the most prolific designers of his generation. Over 3,000 designs in production, over 300 awards and working in over 40 countries attest to his legend of design. Laura Vanagaite of Minimalissimo speaks to Karim to learn more about his design philosophy, the importance of colour, and what it means to design for the present to shape our future with simplicity at its core.

I think the beauty of human scaled design is in the extreme simplicity that is evident in the structure and movement.

How would you define your creative philosophy and approach to design?

Designers must develop forms that are informed through broader issues of changing cultural, social, and political phenomena. When I design something new I consider emotional qualities, human experience, performance, production efficiency, new materials, new processes; I am concerned with a products‘ life span, with sustainable issues, with social behaviours, with price-points, and on and on. I must always keep in mind the human scale. I always design within the realm of my philosophy of sensual minimalism.

When it comes to your creative process, what subjects and themes feed your inspiration?

I don’t take inspiration from any one place or thing. Inspiration comes from being creative within the criteria of a project, and as well from functional needs and desires. Generally I am interested in showing the world how a contemporary physical world can be warm, soft, human, and pleasurable. My aesthetic is very human and I think it translates well to these sensual objects/spaces. What is more human than our sexual selves?

You mention how design is not about solving problems, but rather about a rigorous beautification of our built environments. Can you explain this rationale to us?

I am interested in designing products as Rapture of Experience. Our lives are elevated when we experience beauty, comfort, luxury, performance, and utility seamlessly together. Products and furniture must deal with our emotional ground therefore increasing the popular imagination and experience. This is good design. Bad design creates encumbrances, act as stressors, complicate tasks, and bring no beauty into the world. It is these kinds of emotional objects, and the objects that embrace new technology that become timeless and precious.

You‘re involved in so many different disciplines of design, and although there are correlations between each, how does your thinking switch between them?

Each project perpetually inspires the next. It is my diversity that affords me the ability to cross-pollinate ideas, materials, behaviours, aesthetics and language from one typology to the other. With each project there are many 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. So each project has their similarities and differences.

In your work you try to touch every aspect of our physical and virtual landscape. How do you achieve this connection through your designs?

I believe that people will take a new look at their surroundings, the objects they live with, their lifestyle and activities and choose to live towards the contemporary age. Design must evolve us—creating a beautification and betterment for society. Good design can shift and change human behaviour and create new social conditions.

Simplicity appears to be at the core of your design aesthetic—from the Vela Bathtub and Doride Lamp in 2010 to the newly designed Andromeda Chair this year. How intentional is this?

I think the beauty of human scaled design is in the extreme simplicity that is evident in the structure and movement.

Most of your interior projects have a sense of futurism. Are any of your designs influenced by the past or are you solely focused on that which is modern?

In all my work there is a notion of touching and communicating the day and age in which we live and in futurism. Design affords me the freedom and liberty to express ideas of the digital age, of synthetic beings, or beauty and information as one. Design is about living in the present—style is about living in the past. Design shapes our future, stylists haunts us with history. I am not interested in the past and not interested in people’s interest in the past.

Unsurprisingly, it‘s your minimalist designs that we particularly admire, and there are many, but one that is perhaps most striking is the Koop Chair. Can you explain the thinking behind this design?

The problem with minimalism is that it can be inhuman and uncomfortable. So I believe in sensual minimalism, where objects have a contemporary life, inspiring yet comfortable, colourful yet calming. Functional yet de-stressing.

Having designed thousands of products and hundreds of interiors, can you tell us a few that you‘re particularly proud of?

As with most creative people it is difficult to have a favourite since my mind and passion is always into my latest projects. Last Fall I opened my first full resort, Temptation, Cancun. I’ve designed hotels before but this is a fascinating subject as it is an adults only, topless optional resort. I’ve designed the building, public spaces, rooms, 9 restaurants and a giant sensual pool.

But when it comes to choosing products then I am proud of the Garbo can for Umbra that I designed in 1994 since it is over 20 years old and still so successful, faucets I designed for Cisal in 2007, and ovens for Gorenje as they were my first foray into appliances. My other favourite design is the Kaj watch for Alessi. I have all 12 colours so I change them every day. They are so light, so comfortable, so simple, and inexpensive, which is really my mantra. I must say that I enjoy from micro to macro, anything and everything that creates a better human experience.

You clearly appreciate vibrancy. How do you think vibrant colours translate into minimalism in design?

I love pink and techno colours—those that have a vibrancy and energy of our digital world. I always disliked the idea that bright colours and primaries are only for children and when we get older we conform to dark hues, to banal grey and browns. Colour should spread across all the years, children should be brought up with sophisticated colours and hues too, not brash primaries. I always wanted to live in a universal world, where everything is beautiful, everything well-designed, where our built environments are not age/gender/nationality biased.

As your work shapes the feeling of home for many other people: What is home to you yourself?

I live happily in a monastic white box filled with the most colourful objects and furniture. Generally I change the furniture and art every few months, with new prototypes, old ones, production pieces, like a revolving on-going dynamic gallery. I was brought up with my father changing and moving around the furniture, paintings, etc., every month and I find I have the same eccentric habit. I spend half my year travelling and living out of hotel suites. So my home is like my perfect hotel suite, but I’m surrounded by all my designs and inspiring objects. It is a lesson in minimalism in that I only have objects that bring me joy and are contemporary to my life.

Do you ever switch off from design? How do you make time to relax?

I love to swim, cook and work on my mental and spiritual health by going to lots of museums and galleries and embracing creativity on every level. I love sketching, painting, listening to music, lying by my pool, sleeping, and dreaming and thinking about the world, about love, about people, about peace, about beauty, and about one romantic engaging fulgent energetic seductive inspiring place we call earth.

How many projects do you tend to work on simultaneously?

Right now I’m working on about 50 projects which is fairly typical. They‘re all at various stages of completion.

What are three essential tools you need in order to design?

A pen, music, iPhone.

Besides your impact on the design industry, how do you generally see design‘s influence on today‘s society and its role in the future?

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 yet inspire every individual, to make well-made and beautiful products accessible to all.