Karim Rashid

by Branka Bozic

Karim Rashid

There is no doubt that the children of English – Egyptian couple Rashid are talented for Art. The son, Hani, is well known New York architect, while the daughter Soraya is successful in music and painting.  The third kid Karim Rashid is considered to be one of the most famous designers of modern generation. His work philosophy is strong:  „I want spaces to have a pulse, to sing and come alive around you, so that we feel inspired and revitalized. I want you to feel part of the moment in which we live with no references to the past.“  Inspired by life, he creates.

Longer way to success

Karim Rashid was born in 1960 in Cairo. Something unexpected happened when his mother was giving birth to him. Navel cord was wrapped around Karim’s neck, leaving consequences in his later life. Karim had development delays; he couldn’t lean on his legs until the age of five. It taught him to fight problems courageously even as a young boy. In time, his battle turned to a series of positive circumstances. First results appeared in high school, where he was known for being one of the best mathematicians in country.  

The Rashid family used to move very often. They lived in Cairo, then in Paris briefly and in London. Canada was their final destination. Children grew up and went to school there. During the teenage period, Karim Rashid started to show his affection for Art. He enjoyed drawing household items like glasses, shoes, radios. This is why he decided to apply for industrial design at the Carleton University in Ottawa. After graduating in 1982, he went to Naples to broaden his knowledge. He was educated by leading designers like Ettore Sottsass and Gaetano Pesce there. They enlightened Rashid with the essence of artistic craft.  

One of his first jobs was as professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. His lectures were directed towards design philosophy rather than towards the design itself, which is why he got fired. Karim didn’t let this situation discourage him, so he founded a company of his own in Manhattan in 1993. As he wasn’t familiar with the New York scene, he decided to design cutlery. He presented this work to hundred companies among which only one gave him a chance: Nambe. The rest is history, including over 4000 projects. 

Karim Rashid – “The Prince of Plastic“

Karim’s portfolio is endless; it contains everything regarding home objects, office furniture, interior projects, and jewelry. If we looked for a piece within his opus that perfectly described his work, that would be the Garbo bin from 1996. Together with its mini version, Garbino, it was sold in over seven million copies. Since its price is very affordable, many people regard it as a product of popular culture. But a plastic bin conveys a clear message with its stylishness. In simple moves, without complicating, it is possible to create an iconic piece. It ennobles the space like a sculpture. It has both aesthetical and functional sideIn favor of this, Karim said: „People want design but at an affordable price. A perfect object is a perfect balance of form, emotion, technology, performance, and function all inseparable.

Significant breakthrough happened when Time magazine proclaimed Rashid to be one of the most famous industrial designers. Although that statement hurt many people, Karim considers these days to be the inevitable road towards fame.  Since then, I have been called the Poet of Plastics, and so many other titles—for good and bad. He fought courageously against many prejudices, not letting others influence his perception of the world. 

The Creative Identity

The first pieces of furniture that he shaped were ARP Counter Stool from 1988 and Aura Table from 1990. Karim thinks that by designing these objects, he has defined his work’s philosophy for the first time. „These objects were sensual but minimal, human yet reductive.“ By observing this furniture, we can notice how Karim Rashid started to search for the things he had been craving for. In time, he became more and more secure in his creative principles. Cubic, strict forms were replaced by amorphous, and dark tones were replaced by bright ones. 

Oh Chair from 1999 is the piece he’s especially proud of.  It is comfortable, attractive and very solid. It is adjustable to various weather circumstances and can be used at home or outside. Before designing this chair, Karim was inspired by a certain situation. While he was enjoying himself in the garden, a chair on which he was sitting suddenly broke. This is why he wanted to create high-quality furniture that would be practical at the same time. We can find it in Umbra catalog today, in white, black and blue color. Woopy Chair is another significant object, plastic mass molded in one piece. Wavy forms are carefully synchronized with great number of colors. The Italian company B–Line has been launching this product since 2011. 

Furthermore, we can observe products which were made in similar manner. Electric Float Sofa was composed of several pieces which could be combined by users themselves. High backrest could be used as a hat stand or a dividing wall. It was designed for a Spanish company Sancal and was presented in 2012. Its beauty and soft forms show the Spanish character. They evoke tradition and the shape gives modern character. A series of cushion designs was created especially for this sofa, inspired by Karim’s homeland Egypt.

Life shaped by Art 

Enchanted with the place in which he grew up, Karim designed the Ottawa Collection. When he visited some of the cities in northern Europe, he evoked his home memories. His main inspiration was nature with a bit colder tones. This unusual collection of objects, besides chairs, dining tables and wardrobes also contains dining set. The Chair’s form resembles a leaf and is shaped in order to fit human’s body perfectly. Dining table and wardrobe are elegant; they have fragile but stable legs. The whole collection is harmonious. It represents juncture of nature and Karim’s character. 

All the work that you have in your home should really reflect the time in which we live, so think contemporary. Karim Rashid wants to design for the present moment, but nevertheless his work leads to futurism. They are simply in front of the time which we live in. He calls his work sensual minimalism since he thinks that the goal is not to beautify space but to lead the user to another space dimension. „I want to challenge the boundaries of design, to bring a fulgent vibrancy to any environment.“ He wants to inspire people with new technologies and positive spirit.

Why are his principles so strongly inspired by future?Karim Rashid is eager for life. Problems that he had as a child have awakened an optimistic insight in this adult man. He brings colorful atmosphere with organic, fluttering forms. Karim is a dreamer who evokes the beauties of existence with colors. The role of a designer today is to make the world a better place through increasing our everyday behaviors, functionally and emotionally. He thinks about emotions and influences which objects around us have. He turns spaces into inspiring oases. His pieces aren’t only the image of an excellent design. They have something which not many designers could bring into their work, and that is life itself.

Featured image: Karim Rashid talks to press at Innoprom-2012 in Ekaterinburg by Ssr used under CC BY-SA 3.0 / Cropped from original



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