Ten Pearls of Design and Life Wisdom From Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid, an industrial designer whose work includes luxury goods, furniture, lighting, surface design, brand identity and packaging, was named the 2017 recipient of FIT’s Lawrence Israel Prize on November 27. Considered one of the most prolific designers of his generation, Rashid has more than 3,000 designs in production, more than 300 awards, has worked in more than 40 countries.

The prize, bestowed by the Interior Design program and endowed by the late architect Lawrence J. Israel, has been given annually since 1998 to an individual or firm whose ideas and work enrich FIT Interior Design students’ course of study.  Rashid was selected for the prize because his practice serves as a role model for all students of design. Each year, the award recipients are invited to give a public talk at FIT.

In Rashid’s talk, entitled “Design Versus Style,” he shared the following pearls of wisdom:

There hasn’t been an opportunity for freedom of expression in 100,000 years of humanity, until now–the digital age. Now all of us are being given tools to contribute, to create…you could argue that the digital age has empowered individuality and creativity, and this is a first. We are all living in a very interesting time because we all are living in the apex, the tipping point of analog and digital. We all have personal expression, and we all have something to contribute that’s different from anyone else.

I have to do something in this world that’s original. Why? Because I know I’m not going to be here very long. This is all a flash, it’s a moment. I can waste the moment or I can do something to change life or humanity.

There’s a big difference between design and style. Style I borrow from history. Why do we call it style? Because the period is over.

As a designer you say ‘should I make something physical?’ It’s getting harder to do something physical and original. But there is an opportunity, which is to say that all the most pivotal objects from history, every one of them that made a mark on society, had a new technology. So that’s how there will be original things moving forward.

When you design and shape the future of this world, you should do something original. Every one of us are given the tools, empowerment and technology to create, the freedom of expression.

Soft, comfortable, lightweight, stretch…I call that the casual age, the age of casualism. That’s the world we live in now, so that’s my other inspiration. So I say, ‘how do I make something original?’ Look at humanity and the world we live in now.

The only rule [of design] should be to think about human beings, the core of the work.

There’s a huge difference between artists and design. Art is a selfish act. Design, at the end of the day, is very collaborative.

You can tell the world anything you want. You have a voice. Every one of us can make change. Every one of us is in charge of our future.

If you work in the present, inevitably you will shape the future.



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