A Conversation with Karim Rashid

Monday was the start of my week attending design conferences: The May Design Series & Clerkenwell Design Week. First of all, why do these events happen on overlapping days? There is nothing happening next week.

For the second time in my life, I had the opportunity to hear the amazing Karim Rashid speak. It’s actually a miracle. He has never talked before in London even though his parents are British. For those who have never heard of him, he is a design legend. Not just interiors – he also designs products or anything else his clients want. He designed the Bobble (a water bottle I get asked about all the time). He’s designed hotels in Germany, Las Vegas and other places. He’s designed the bottles for Method cleaning products. I could go on for a very long time, since he’s designed well over 3000 objects. What I love more than his designs is his theories on design.

I managed to record the last 30 minutes of his talk from yesterday, which is much better than me explaining what he said. Even if you aren’t a designer, I would encourage you all to listen to it, because it applies to all industries and all individuals.

The only way I could figure out how to share the talk was with this link. Click here. I hope this works.

So now the discussion begins. What is design? Who is a designer? I know I had the thought, “What the hell am I doing?” If all we’re doing is regurgitating historical interpretations of old designs, are we really creating anything new? Are we inspired to make the world a better place through design? If we start to look around, we start to realize how few things have been rethought since their inception. Why do we just accept the status quo of this is the way it’s always been? How many of us sit on our sofas with our laptops? I know I do and it can be really uncomfortable. Why have we not re-designed the sofa to accommodate how we live? I read a lot in bed, and I find it incredibly uncomfortable. I know I’m not the only one. And, no, I don’t want one of those electric, Granny mattresses that looks like it was stolen from the hospital just so that I can sit up in bed comfortably. Why have beds not been rethought?

I’ve struggled with some of these thoughts before. Are we designing for a client or are we pushing the boundaries and reinventing? And are these two things opposites or do they overlap in some Venn diagram? Karim (I’ve decided we’re on a first name basis) said he requires a client to be creative. If given a blank slate and no requirements, the creativity gets lost due to endless possibilities. Yet, if I went to my client and said I’m going to design a sofa that looks like a blob and we’re going to do it bright orange, they would run screaming. So what am I standing for in design? And how do I, as someone fairly early in their design career, push for good design or something that might be different, but that serves the purpose better than what we’ve always done?

There were lots of discussions yesterday about the size of people’s homes. Everything is getting smaller and how do we cope with that? If you thought space was tight in Vancouver, think again. 600 square feet is like a mansion. Right now, our temporary apartment is a 2 bedroom in 430 square feet. And it’s actually adequate space for both of us. I actually love small spaces. I think you get to be more creative in your design, because there is no option for wasted space. So is this the area where I want to push for change? Absolutely. And as someone looking for work, how do I do that? I guess this is where I find out how important it is to me. Most designers are designing for the wealthy, which means monstrous kitchens and bathrooms. Where’s the challenge in that? Sure, I can fit anything you want in that size space. Let’s see – double wall oven, 48″ gas cooktop, side-by-side fridge/freezer, huge island, bar sink and main sink, pantry (or larder here), dishwasher that fits 16 place settings, maybe even a separate butlers area. Done! Now what if you had to fit all the functionality of a kitchen into 8′-0″ x 8′-0″ space. Now there’s a challenge. And let’s still make it beautiful and magazine-worthy.

If design is about the betterment of our lives, is that what is really happening? How do we go about figuring out what a better life looks like? Do we know what will make us happy? I think if given the option, many people would choose a big house to raise their family. What if it was a smaller house where they grow up being intimate as a family? In the workplace, we are constantly designing to have impromptu interactions with co-workers, so that some magical spark will happen. At home, we design more space, so we can avoid each other. What if we thought of our houses as places for random interactions, where we could be more connected to the others who live under its roof?

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3 thoughts on “A Conversation with Karim Rashid

  1. Great blog Tara. It would make a very read for lots of people. You have a gift for this. Please share it widely. Love, Dad

  2. Pingback: Uh… What have I done?! | London's Calling this Canuck

  3. It seems like we have gone full circle with interior spaces. Not many can afford or choose to live in those huge suburban monster homes. It used to be the ideal if you were raising a family. Now we consider the quality of life more – I think – I hope. We are aware of the energy of a room/home and how this can affect the livability of the home more so than size. My co-worker spent most of Friday re-arranging her office to change the energy in it (Fridays are sometimes our slow day). Favourable or unfavourable energy can be created by the occupants of the space and what they bring to that space. We all have been in spaces where we’ve immediately gotten a good vibe or a bad vibe. Sometimes we have to change the energy of a new space that we have moved in to.
    This is something that, as an interior designer, brings another level of thought to your practice I’m sure. How exciting to be on the forefront of these changes in the way we live and think.

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