idsgn (a design blog)

Karim Rashid: Inspiring a new way of thinking

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June 9 2009


Why do we keep recreating the same thing over and over?

It's what I began asking myself after attending the premiere of Gary Hustwit's new film Objectified. The film features several heavyweights in the design industry, among many others: Jonathan Ive, Paola Antonelli and Karim Rashid, who was present for a discussion and Q&A after the film.

I was struck by an opinion shared by Karim Rashid that shed some light on his own work, an opinion which has lingered in my creative process ever since:

Why do we feel like we need to keep revisiting the archetype over and over and over again? Digital cameras for example, in which their format, proportion, the fact that they're horizontal rectangles, are modeled off the original silver film camera. So, in turn it's the film that defines the shape of the camera.

All of a sudden our digital cameras have no film. So why on earth do we have the same shape we have?

- Karim Rashid from Objectified

Film Camera (1950) compared to Digital Camera (2009), Film camera photo by Jonathan Zander

This philosophy perfectly articulates how I remember feeling about Karim Rashid's well-known redesign for Method soap. A simple reimagining of an innocuous soap bottle made designers—and, seemingly, the general public—stand up and take notice. Soap users everywhere were asking questions:

“This doesn't look like a soap bottle... but, then again, why should it?”

Why weren't we redesigning these things before?”

What was so great about the old soap bottle, anyway?”

Certainly production costs, technological advancements and other factors have a lot to do with the sculpted bottles that now sit aside our sinks, but much can also be attributed to the simple reminder to question the way things have always been.

Some will argue (and rightly so) that re-inventing the wheel is fruitless, that design would be well-served referencing more of its valuable history. Regardless of how far a particular designer wants to implement the lesson, we would all be well served by asking more of ourselves, our clients and our work. Moving forward as a design community requires questioning the materials we use, the shape, size, proportions and every detail we can, while granting ourselves the freedom to ask: Is there a better way?

More Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid's philosophy of moving beyond what's already been done is visible in his work. Some notable examples include the hand vacuum for Dirt Devil:


The radiator for Hellos, Italy:


The wristwatch for Alessi:


Recently, Karim Rashid was on featured on Nylon TV:

Filed under: design

By Josh Smith