There is a designer who sold more than 4 million trash cans named “Garbo.” The designer is Karim Rashid. He strives to make things that we use every day more implicitly artistic and at the same time functional. His exhibition was held at Seoul Arts Center from the end of June to early October. He is making a ceaseless effort to change the world by designing. Through the exhibition “Design Your Self,” he shows us his philosophy that the way we live can be more diverse and colorful by adding design to the items we use daily. He is getting close to the age of 60, but he is still working hard with the aim of “popularizing design in everyday life,” saying “Design not only material things but also our living.” The Argus followed the trace of his 30 years of design.
Who is Karim Rashid?
Karim Rashid is one of the most active designers, and he is truly loyal to the very fundamental reason why design exists at all. Born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1960, he has designed more than 3,000 products, from small lamps to furniture, cars and hotels. Karim has won over 300 design awards and gives lectures at a host of universities. He calls himself a pluralist, cultural shaper and global citizen who is above any nation’s borders. For the longest time, design only existed for the elite and small insular cultures. He has worked hard for the last 20 years trying to make design a public subject. With his lush use of colors, curvy shapes, and most of all great ideas for the users, he hopes to enlighten this era and the world.
Trip to visit Karim Rashid
One day in September, as an autumn breeze blew gently, The Argus arrived at the Seoul Arts Center’s Hangaram Art Museum. While the reporter was waiting in line to purchase a ticket, some words caught the reporter’s attention. The sentence, “Design must evolve us and create beautification and betterment for society,” was written in white on a rich pink wall. Due to the strong color and the meaning of the phrase, it felt like seeing the trailer of a movie.
After about 10 minutes of waiting, the reporter came into the hall. The exhibition was comprised of seven themes according to the types of items displayed. The article introduces the five themes that were most impressive.
Beautification of life
Entering the hall, an egg-shaped thing colored in purple and pink stood out conspicuously. It was a chair designed by Karim. The Argus reporter sat for a moment and relaxed. On the surface, the chair looked comfortable just because the material itself was soft and the shape was round.
However, it turned out that the motif of the chair was a woman’s womb. Based on the idea that babies stay very peaceful and secure in the uterus before they come out into the world, he intended to make a chair that can relax people. His warm consideration for users and his hope for the world to become more beautiful were well represented in this section.
In his manifesto, Karim said, “Now design is not about solving problems, but about a rigorous beautification of our built environments.” We live in a world where we are surrounded by all different kinds of objects that often have no relationship to our daily life, both in a sense of their functions and aesthetics. To Karim, design is about a criticism of the condition of time and the spaces we inhabit now, instead of bygone eras and trends. He showed his philosophy by displaying things that are closely connected to our daily life, like lamps and furniture.
The hall of Globalove
Leaving all the furniture behind, The Argus saw a huge wooden structure in the shape of a man’s head located in the middle of the hall. The giant wooden object, which the reporter thought was a mere sculpture, was actually a chair named “Globalove.” It is a wooden piece that embodies the message of love, peace and integration.
A woman sat inside Globalove and then music came out of the inner speakers. When her friend outside of it asked how it felt, she answered, “It feels like music is winding me down along the grain!” It seemed that the visitor received Karim’s message: love and embrace each other as human beings.
Karim said, “We all started from one and will soon be one again.” Rather than merely keeping his resolution and belief in his heart, he enthusiastically tries to realize his conviction through design, which is a field he has been working in passionately for years.
Into the scape
Behind the Globalove, lots of kids were running around and playing in a pink space. It was called “Pleasurescape.” This was a place where people can enjoy the seamless shape and splendid color of Karim’s design. Anyone could take off their shoes, lie down on the installation and rest. At first, it feels uncomfortable because the material is stiff and firm. However, people can feel comfortable once they relax and adjust their bodies to the curved line of the Pleasurescape.
Karim encourages visitors not only to appreciate things as mere artwork, but to actively experience the displayed items. Since the late 90s, Karim started working on the landscape structures, like the Pleasurescape. Taking notice of the majestic scenery of Canada, including high mountains and winding rivers, Karim designed an assembly of chairs that are all different in terms of height, irregularly protruding from the floor. When most people see mountains and valleys, they simply pass by, or some just make exclamations like “Cool! Pretty!” However, Karim came up with a structure in which people can enjoy and rest. Perhaps this was possible because he has passion for bringing positive change to people’s lives through good design.
Era of mass production
Passing the Pleasurescape, numerous plastic trash cans, chairs and water bottles splashed with patches of bright colors grabbed the reporter’s attention. Visitors looked at them one by one enjoying the designs applied to the items. Some were astonished by the fact that Karim has designed items that we use frequently here in Korea. By exhibiting everyday products, Karim makes us newly realize that design is more entrenched in our lives than we thought.
“Good design should be close to the public and not expensive nor limited. Good design reaches out to many ordinary people,” said Karim Rashid.
He insists on “Designocracy.” He adds his own unique philosophical design to daily items that are generally mass-produced. Through this, he cries for the necessity of producing well designed things that are humane and convenient for the users.
Unidentifiable geometric patterns with strong colors were all over the walls of the Digipop section. Some patterned chairs and carpets were on the floor. Many people took pictures in front of Digipop works, as the overall colors were bright and clear.
Digipop is a new kind of art he shows in this digital age. He says that the material world we live in must catch up with the fast-growing digital world. Karim believes that bold and strong patterns, graphics and icons can serve as a bridge connecting the two worlds.
He combines the intense patterns created by Digipop with the surface design of wallpapers and carpets. As a result, he lets people see the designs reflecting the technological developments of modern society in their everyday routine. Ultimately, he runs towards the goal of realizing the “popularization of design.”
“In the 21st century, everybody has become an artist thanks to the development of digital technology. This era is more energetic than ever,” said Karim. “We need a design that captures the spirit of the times. My role is not to provide design services but to create a culture.”
About the reason the trash can called Garbo could become a bestseller, Karim said that it was because the Garbo was not only cheap, light and convenient to use, but also it had a good design. He also said that he likes collaborating with luxury brands, but designing trash cans, water bottles and T-shirts is far more meaningful to him.
We all live in a world covered with design. People look, touch and use hundreds of designed things in one day. Consequently, he has faith that design can change the world and that he can make steady progress toward his own objective, the popularization of design. Like Karim Rashid, The Argus hope HUFSans have passion in their areas of interest and slog their way towards their own goals.
Reporter of Culture Section