A Revealing Look at Karim Rashid’s Design Process
June 5, 2009 - 10:10am

I am inspired by everything. I am inspired by my childhood, my education, all my teachers I have ever had, every project I have worked on, every city I have traveled to, every book I have read, every art show I have seen, every song I have heard, every smell, every taste, sight, sound and feeling. When I was 4, I went sketching with my father in England, drawing churches. He taught me to see — he taught me perspective at that age — he taught me that I could design anything and touch all aspects of our physical landscape.

I sketch profusely. I draw 20 to 30 pages a day. I tend to use organic or sensual lines in my work — my hand and mind think that way — flowing, fluid, to create movement, to have a continuum of shape that is an extension of our organic world and the human body. At the same time each project warrants a certain performance or function that the lines tend to always be inspired by. Generally, I am traveling a great deal — designing and coordinating projects from the road. I love drawing on planes, where I can really focus on projects. I can fill a sketchpad on a single European flight — about 100 pages.

I must sleep 7½ hours exactly or I have trouble performing. I wake up at 8 a.m., brew the strongest cup of espresso, answer e-mails, go to the office, review issues with my office manager, answer more e-mails, write articles and proposals. I probably work on the design of 20 projects a day. I have about 40 projects going, so I manage to get to each project every other day. The projects cross over so much. One minute we’re working on a lamp, and suddenly I realize the concept is perfect for the hallways of a hotel in Germany. It happens. The difficult part of that is the attention span perpetually becoming blurred. I thought, at first, that was a bad thing. Now I realize it’s a good thing. It’s affording new character and new typology to other things, because they’re being inspired by something that has nothing to do with that discipline and goes beyond that archetype.

All objects and spaces have semantic language. Forms, lines, colors, textures, functions, all touch our senses and our daily experiences. I believe it is important to not over-embellish — to keep a certain truth to a product or space, but also that objects and spaces touch our sensual side, touch our emotions. They need to be human. Love and desire are part of my interests in “sensualizing” our physical material world.

The Cadmo sconce and Doride table lamp are two of my favorite new designs. Idesigned Cadmo in my sleep. I was in a cold hotel on a winter night in Milan. It was damp, drizzling, lonely, but inspiring. I wrapped that blankets around me while working on my laptop under the covers of my bed — and saw a sliver of light along my body, and a larger implosion of light enveloping my face. So, I sketched Cadmo. Cadmo is designed like a veil or a monastic quiet insular robe — a wrapping of light, a source that reveals a slice of light and focuses and projects lights to the ceiling.

I designed the Doride lamp at the age of 19, so to see it finally realized is a dream come true 30 years later. I envisioned a leaf blowing in the wind, moving in nature, articulating at a point in the spine, with a thin articulating curvilinear branch that can rotate seamlessly 350 degrees. The slim narrow form morphs from direct to indirect light seamlessly. The leaf is a stroke of a pen, a soft vertical wave in flux, a fluid gesture that changes to vary light — a zoomorphic form that I would describe as digital nature.

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