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At a recent Karim Rashid product launch, circling around the “blobjects” and bright shiny things on display, I heard giggles and sharp comments from a handful of design insiders. With the volume of his work and size of his personality being so visible and public, Rashid is an easy target for these pokes. It is easy to ridicule, but this criticism was much deeper and more cutting. The hate/love that Rashid draws is similar to the beating that rock band Nickleback endures, a group with millions of downloads, global stadium-sized tours, and legions of fans yelling lyrics but still are commonly referred to as the ‘worst band ever’. Even with their wide-spread success, both band and designer are dissed and dismissed.

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How can a designer who is so popular be so criticized? Design critics groan when they hear Rashid’s statements like “I love plastic. I hate nature. I hate books but I love the Internet. I hate the past, but I love the future” and they are skeptical of how lusty both the media and the public are with Rashid’s products, but the formal critics are not the only ones throwing mud. The design community itself is also piling on the negativity, especially in the user comments following almost every article that Rashid is a part of, exposing a nasty gap between designers and design fans, critics and celebrity designers.

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I wanted to seek a different path to understand Rashid’s legacy, to dig deeper and present the lovely pieces that have made a positive mark, demonstrate Rashid’s craft and ability, and by doing so, shift this conversation of design fans versus design critics and build a bridge between the camps. Here, we celebrate Rashid’s meaningful pieces, and address the critical comments squarely, challenging them to take a second look without the snickers.

NEW CONCEPTS. Solving real problems with thoughtful design solutions, all free of the flare and iconography common to Rashid’s work, these pieces embody unique ideas and deliver rich experiences. Slice scissors (2011) feature unique and simply manufactured lie-flat design that is comfortable for both lefties and righties; TVS Hook pots/pans (2013) rethink the basic problem of storage; Siliconezone sink strainer (2013) is a straightforward object stripped of fuss and unnecessary styling; the Dune Halo desk (2010) replaces the weight of a standard desk with light and bold colour; Verreum Bruno table lamps (2013) are solid industrial design objects, distilled elements with sharp attention to details; Gaia & Gino Jose Happy People mouth-blown glassware (2014) consists of reversible forms and volumes each having a dual function; the bobble™ reusable water bottles (2010) feature filters that removes chlorine and organic contaminants from tap water; and the Zeritalia AURA coffee table (1990) is the object that was the foundation for Rashid’s master strokes of lightness and transparency. Rashid-Concepts-copy 1

NEW FORMS.  Times are changing and Rashid’s amorphous “blobject” has became dated and created a sea of plastic. Working to break free of his own formal language, he has created a handful of iconic pieces that genuinely are formal advances, embracing abstraction, simplification, new modernism and principled architectural design. These feel more sophisticated in their design. The Sancal Float sofa (2014) is super bold and formally inventive; the Alessi KAJ watches (2007) are so clean they could have come from Apple’s design team; Nimbus Squeeze suspended lamp (2012) that rethinks the traditional chandeliers purpose; the Dxg Bxone Fetch Toy (2009) is obvious, but in a playful and useful way; both the stealth Vondom Vertex chair (2014) and the Tonelli Dekon 2 coffee table (2006) complete Rashid’s obsession with digital form and finding a language to express contemporary life; the Canada Post Box (1987) a tough urban design created to survive the street (an earlier piece in the designers career).rim rashid forms

NEW MATERIALS.  Rashid has thankfully been shifting to eco-materials and green manufacturing technology when possible, and has done this from some classic pieces like his Umbra Garbo/Garbini Cans (2011), which have been updated and are now made from biodegradable and recycled plastic. The Sydney-D Onde rubber boots (2009) are constructed from one material, latex, and can be thrown in your blue bin when worn out; for A Lot of Brazil Siamese chair (2014) the seat pan and back rest are made from a byproduct of local sugarcane production, saving shipping costs and impact. The RIVA 1920 Kairo chair (2009) is hand formed from a single block of solid cedar block without any paint or adhesives, and the Issey Miyake For Him 2 in 1 packaging (2002) was an early application of double shot plastic molding, that featured a suede like finish over a solid plastic, super high touch and expensive feeling.

Karim Rashid Materials

NEW STYLES. When the designer was encouraged to break free of his design iconography, the results are stunning and inventive, objects that break new stylistic ground. Valdichienti kivas sofa (2010) refreshes the block sofa into a pillowy and soft form that invites the users to jump in. The Bitossi Ceramiche Symbolik Totems (2006) are remixed and complex forms that push the Karim language into an appropriate object and becomes quite lovely through the process. The BoConcept Ottawa Collection (2012) are a welcome shift in aesthetic, a simple style that references nature; the B-LINE Snoop shelving/storage (2010) smartly serve a dual purpose and are inexpensive, a great combination for design to embrace; the Kawa Modern Delightful Bathroom Inspiration (2013) brings colour an minimal design aesthetics to a market that rarely strays from the folksy and traditional forms (a great application of the designers ongoing use of pink).

KARIM RASHID STYLES

Ottawa Collection by Karim Rashid for BoConcept

 

Ottawa Collection by Karim Rashid for BoConcept

 

Ottawa Collection by Karim Rashid for BoConcept< SIAMESE  CHAIR for A Lot of Brazil (2014) made from a by pro

 

WATER-BOBBLE (2012) AURA COFFEE TABLE for Zeritalia (1990) Sandwich of glass sheets and colored PMMA (polymethyl-metacrylate) film,  transperancy

SNOOP SHELVING SYSTEMS / STORAGE-SHELVING for B-LINE (2010)

OTTAWA FURNITURE COLLECTION for (2012)

 

ONDE RAIN BOOTS for Sydney-D (2010) Colour palette makes sense, pulled back and less Karim’ish, more edited. Latex that reduces the decay of the material, and can be thrown away guilt free.

 

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Rashid used a unique lay-flat design to create multi-purpose scissors that cater to both righties and lefties with this stainless steel design. Product is 7 1/2 inches long. 2010

 

Karim Rashid Portrait courtesy of Gorenje.
Karim Rashid Office Portrait by Sivan Askayo.

 

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