NORTH AMERICA | Without Guilt – Karim Rashid
Karim Rashid – interior designer working with the largest companies in the world (including Alessi, Kenzo, Prada, Issey Miyake). He is the creator of over 2,500 designs in all spheres, from commercial interiors to clothing and footwear. Works mostly in plastic and bright colours, master of self-publicism and a DJ.
You are one of the most famous designer who have worked for almost the entire world. You seem to believe in a "global" man without roots, for which you design "global" objects. Do not you think that there are still substantial differences between people, cultures and languages, which should be taken into account during a process of designing?
There is no National style. I feel today we live in such a global environment, that the distinct separation in style, taste, and local culture is diminishing. As the world gets smaller and smaller, and we have access to international markets through the internet and new technologies, the cultural lines begin to blur and fade. In fact the world is becoming somewhat homogenous due to mass production but I think that with new technologies, we will once again start to see very desperate and diversified products especially when manufacturing- on-demand is in place. The only difference eventually in humans will be the individual not race, creed, color, or religion or borders.
Doesn’t the dominance of English language and the digital tools we use every day in all corners of the world, reduce the diversity of the world and interpersonal communication? Don’t we lose something that define our complexity and diversity? Do we all have to be the same, just beautiful?
I love the world; I love diversity, I love the desirous need by everyone to create, to contribute and to project energy and progress into this world. At the same time I love the shrinking unification of the world- because it affords all of us to be inspired by every culture, by everyone, everywhere, and anytime. This is the omnipresent new age in which we live; More choice, more exposure, more information, more exchange, perpetual communication, more inspiration, and the empowerment of creativity and the empowerment of the individual. We all have different finger prints and yet culture, tradition, religion, jingoism tell us to conform and suppress individuality and creativity. so that we become an ever-vast progressive single planet! Hopefully one day we will have one peaceful place, one religion (the religion of respect and love for each other), and a positive creative intellectual future. A nutopia!
Your design approach clearly shows, that you are a supporter of the world dynamics, searching for new forms. Is there a place for reflection, contemplation and peace in a world, in which the changes occur so quickly, especially technological changes? Is there any sense in a slow food or slow life movement in the contemporary world? Is it an antidote to the speed of modern life or a fad/trend?
Throughout history, shaping objects has shaped culture. Currently, industrial design has a responsibility to redefine these objects in society as a celebration of value and meaning, not as a celebration of surface but as a responsible beautification of our everyday lives. A Designer develops forms that are informed through broader issues of changing cultural, social, and political phenomena. Btw the slow food movement came and went in a flash because these antithetical small micro events that go against the natural organic movement of human change so not work. Just because we are completely connected and on the digital age it does not mean we can't reflect, dream, relax, enjoy social life! I find this question cynical and techno phobic. It is our destined evolution to human progress. This is not trend. There is no turning back.
What is your attitude to old objects? Could you imagine your own projects when they would be considered old-fashioned and would not correspond to the "spirit of the age"? What should happen to them? Should they be removed from the environment?
I have nothing against the old. I don’t believe in reproductions. I can respect, learn from, and admire real authentic antiques, but what I do not agree with is the derivative of the past, the copies the fake ‘antiquation’ of most of our world, where we produce new objects that are trying to imply, or reference the past- and generally a past that we never existed in. If you were going to buy a car today would you buy a horse and carriage if you were going to by a portable music device today do you buy an iPod, or an ‘am’ mono radio? Now if I bought an old am radio it is because it is a collector object, something historic, a real effigy, or antique…
Your objects are made using the latest techniques and technologies. Should such items subjected to the passage of time, be replaced with new ones or, perhaps could be repaired and still serve people?
The world and system of objects is complex and diverse so I cannot speak of all objects. Many objects are and will be completely disposable (hopefully with perfect recycling built). Others will last a long time but everything is subject to the passage of time. Nothing is sacred and nothing lives forever. Like nature everything dies.
On your website, you posted Karimanifesto. Do you think it is still actual? Shouldn’t you, after the financial crisis of recent years, slightly change the view of the role of design in our lives and beautification of our surroundings?
Beautification of our world does not mean spending your last dime on expensive wall coverings and furniture. It’s about loving what we live with. Today especially, design must prove its’ worth and address the inhuman built environment to give us elevated, more pleasurable, more qualitative, aesthetic humanized seamless conditions.
As we focus energy on depression, recession, and the negative state of our economy we forget the true meaning of design. The problem is that when we use the word ‘design’ we think of fashion, extravagant ‘art’ furniture, and expensive poetic objects, radical buildings, or nonfunctional products, but this is not design. We think of ‘style’ not design. Design is about shaping the future, about contemporary needs and desires, technologies, materials, and new social behaviors. Design is about revisiting and evolving our culture and physical landscape. Innovation is inseparable from design. Companies who embrace innovation, originality, and rigorously centrally focus on the human experience at the core of their agenda will prosper in bad times. Companies that are really innovative, creative, and embrace the human spirit will succeed – in other words design is the key to this success when the economy is struggling. Design is not superfluous, not flippant, not extravagant, design is a necessity and an on going human desire. I can’t see or live in a world without design.
You have been always perceived as an enthusiast of plastic and new technology. What is your attitude to ecology? What is the contribution of ecological issues in your projects?
Recycling is in a really cyclic paradigm now in the United States and many other countries. But conserving resources means using less raw materials and energy throughout a product's entire life — from its’ development and manufacture to its use, reuse and recycling and disposal. The material can conserve more resources during the life-cycle of an object because of the integral amazing properties of plastics such as its lightweight, durability, and formability when compared to other materials. I am using eco biodegradable materials, new technologies, new smart materials, and of course, better design. In the controversial arguments of excess, sustainability and market seduction I believe that every new object should replace three. Better objects edit the marketplace.
Do your recent projects, including the one for A Lot of Brazil, indicate changes in your approach to design, particularly in the terms of the materials that were used?
For years I’ve struggled to convince clients to switch to bioplastics. Today we can create plastics from sugarcane and Corn. For example garbino waste can for umbra has been made from corn the last 5 years! But the public do not know the difference. These polymers don’t use petroleum so they are much more sustainable for the earth. But manufacturers have to be convinced of the long term benefits.
Is higher environmental sensitivity the change in this approach or, perhaps only the reaction to the demands of the contemporary world?
Both. As a designer I hope one day we live in a world where everything will be cyclic, sustainable, biodegradable, and seamless. And as a designer it is my job to be an expert on human needs.
Don’t you think that we live in the world full of culture excess? We are surrounded by too many products, consuming them incredibly fast. We change our mobile phones every two years, we change our cars every five years, just because it is said to do that... What is your approach to the intended practice of making products older?
I believe that we can have a world that is completely 100% disposable where we own nothing and only use things for the momentary experience and then were on to the next thing if we can only develop a world that is 100% cyclic perfectly recyclable sustainable and then we could have phenomenal pleasurable full experiences without any sense of guilt. This is the world that we will one day live in.
Interview: Artur Zaguła
Photos: Courtesy to the Karim Rashid Inc