Interview with Karim Rashid, Superstar Product Designer


Photo Credit: Karim Rashid, Inc.
Karim Rashid is one of the most recognizable product designers of his generation. In some design circles, he is considered infamous just as much as he is famous. There's no denying that he is prolific with over 3000 products in production in more than 35 countries along with countless awards and honorary doctorates from the Ontario College of Art & Design and Corcoran College of Art & Design...making the case that those that think little of him are jealous of his success. Either way, Rashid is not known for his sustainability - he is known more for blobjects and wearing only pink and/or white. So when I spotted him buying vitamins at the local Whole Foods wearing pink from head to toe - I had to ask for an interview to find out if there's any green in his sensibility.
Image of the Melissa plastic shoe | Photo Credit: Karim Rashid, Inc.

Treehugger: What's your experience with green materials and technologies for the products and designs you've worked on?
Rashid: When I work with any company, I push the needs and agenda of sustainable design. I designed plastic shoes in Brazil for Melissa. They have a perfect 100% recyclable plant, so all their PVC is produced with no waste. I have used the method of flocking to create unique textures in the biodegradable, vegan shoes also. I designed the Method line that consists of completely 100% biodegradable cleaning products. We have tried re-making Umbra Garbo out of Corn-plastic, and also designed Grobal, a self-watering planter system. I have explored sustainable living through exhibition concept houses such as Corian Smart-ologic which was shown in Cairo for DuPont. For me it is important for us to push these notions with our clients. There is no beauty without health and the environment needs to stay healthy.

TH: Do you think the growth and interest in green design is good or bad for product designers?
Rashid: I think growth in green design is essential, and necessary to move forward. We need to design better in order to consumer less. We need to use new technologies and innovations to improve our environment, and to chose healthier options. To add more to one's life, one can also subtract or remove, so that instead of consuming, one de-consumes, a theory of addition by subtraction, where less can be more. But not in the Meisian ideal of more is less (Mies Van de Roe 1939), not a minimal or reductive approach. Instead, a way of enriching one's life, of increasing experiences through beautiful things, through things that we love, to edit our choices and have a richer life - creating ultimately the most important luxury of the 21st,century- 'free-time'.


Baby Gorbal Self-Watering Potted Plants | Photo Credit: Karim Rashid, Inc.

If we can remove banalities, frustrations, time-consuming scenarios, we can spend more time thinking, creating, loving, being, fulfilling our dreams, our desires, and play a more constructive role. We can also just be happier, because we are not bombarded with pettiness, with mediocre issues, with banal experiences. We can grow by subtracting.

TH: You've talked about how you look forward to the days that people are implanted with robotics and other technologies....can that type of vision for humanity co-exist with a more sustainable, more ecologically aligned world?
Rashid: I definitely think so. We are rapidly developing new filtration systems, new transportation, new synthetic body parts and there's no reason why these things can't evolve in harmony with our ecology. In the meantime, in the excrescence of goods, and the system of objects, the possibility of over-consuming, of addition, and immediate satisfaction of consumption is dangerous. We surround ourselves in life with effigies, objects, products, to find meaning in our existence, and to create a sense of memory, of presence, and of belonging. But we also consume to occupy time and to fulfill some strange need of reward and ego.

We will forever have objects in our world, and I am not advocating to not consuming or to have 'things', but to be hyper conscious of our things and love and enjoy them. If not, do without them. Objects denote our time, place, and relationship with the outside world and others. Objects can have phenomenal relationship with our daily lives and us and at the same time objects can be perpetual obstacles in our life, complicating them, and creating stress.


Bobble, a self-filtering water bottle | Photo Credit: Karim Rashid, Inc.

TH: Lots of people think the term green is over used while others think green is too expensive, what's your take on this? do you think the green design industry has marketed itself well?
Rashid: Until prices for biodegradable products, recycled, products, and organic products become the same as prices for their competitive 'non-environmental' goods, the market remains small.

TH: Are there projects you are currently working on that are integrating green design in interesting and new ways?
Rashid: One of my more recent designs that I'm proud of is bobble, a self-filtering water bottle that is meant to replace entirely the use of disposable water. Now we can filter water conveniently, wherever we go, while also saving money, and saving from wasting resources. We are working with bobble now to develop more products of a similar nature, which we are very excited about.

More on Product Design:
TreeHugger Picks: Biomimicry in Product Design
McDonough Braungart Product Certification
How Much Should Design Cost?
Designers: Design Repairable Gadgets

Tags: Designers | Reusability | Shoes | TH Interview

2014 Gift Guide

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK