Born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1960, Karim Rashid lived in England then Canada, where he received a Bachelor of Industrial Design from Carleton University, Ottawa, in 1982. This was followed by graduate studies in Naples, Italy, where he learnt under renowned designers Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsass.

A year spent working for the Rodolfo Bonetto Studio in Milan was an appropriate training ground, as Bonetto was responsible for many pioneering products made from ABS plastic and polyethylene for B-Line in the 1960s and ’70s.

Rashid left Canada in 1991 and began teaching at the Pratt Institute in New York before opening his studio in 1993. One early design that expressed his flowing, mostly computer-generated style was his 1991 ‘Kid’ chair for Italy’s Fasem. Similar ideas were also seen in the ‘Loop’ and ‘Elf’ chairs by Idee, a Japanese manufacturer devoted to Rashid’s work.

In 1992, Rashid started designing for US tableware company Nambé, producing a range of products – clocks, vases and candlesticks – that would help establish his signature look. Alloy and glass are perfect materials to convey Rashid’s organic “blobular” forms, and his work for American lighting brand George Kovacs and German glassware manufacturer Leonardo in the late 1990s again produced modern yet beautiful forms.

Rashid’s designs often incorporate a folded-ribbon look (using materials such as fabric, laminate, acrylic and steel) and his computer-generated asterisk, cross and figure-eight motifs, which can be seen on his stools, rugs, kitchen utensils and even Rashid’s own body tattoos.

 

His 1996 ‘Garbino’ rubbish bin for Canadian plastics company Umbra is Rashid’s most well-known design (along with its larger equivalent, the ‘Garbo’). This simple, softly rounded bucket in recycled polypropylene is still one of Umbra’s biggest sellers and is also placed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York

The same concept was applied to the affordable and award-winning ‘Oh’ chair, from 1999, which fulfils Rashid’s belief in ‘democratic design’. His skill with polypropylene has also been evident in the highly acclaimed packaging he has designed for global brands like Issey Miyake and Kenzo. More recently, Rashid has also undertaken a number of architecture projects, including the Semiramis Hotel in Athens and the newly opened Switch restaurant in Dubai.

Fast facts

Style

Rashid, an Egyptian-born New Yorker, is one of the most prolific designers of our time.

He loves technology, synthetic processes and materials.

An early adopter of computer-aided design, Rashid’s forms use plasticity to convey what he calls “sensual minimalism”.“Blobular” is Rashid’s term for his stylised, organic designs (the ‘Blob’ lamp, ‘Superblob’ sofa, ‘Bloob’ chair, ‘Floob’ light, etc).

Best known for…

His white or pink suits, his tattoos and his bright “blobular” products (or “blobjects”) made from plastic alloy and glass. He also created some atypically angular pieces, like the award-winning Bonaldo ‘Poly’ chair (2007).

The most commercially successful are the ‘Garbo’ and ‘Garbino’ waste bins and the ‘Oh’ chair for Umbra.