You've probably seen Karim Rashid's furniture, such as the OH chair, made of colorful polypropylene with its characteristic cutout back...

Share story

You’ve probably seen Karim Rashid’s furniture, such as the OH chair, made of colorful polypropylene with its characteristic cutout back. You may even own a wastebasket or broom he’s designed.

Rashid, whose clients include Alessi, Umbra, Prada, Miyake and Method, is a renowned innovator and designer of household products, fashion, lighting and interiors. More than 2,000 of Karim Rashid’s designs have been produced.

Rashid, 46, was born in Cairo, Egypt, grew up in Canada and now works in New York. He started his design business 13 years ago after working in various jobs, including as an associate professor at Rhode Island School of Design. His work is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and 13 other museums.

He recently released “Design Your Self: Rethinking the Way You Work, Live, Love and Play” (Regan Books, $25.95).

Here, Rashid offers his thoughts on his work and the design industry.

Q: Your creations are fun, colorful, sculptural and geometric. Are they a response to a need for more playful/artful yet practical household items?

A: I want things that surround us to be smart, beautiful, poetic, useful, sexy, enlightening, inspiring, contemporary, colorful, energetic, fulgent, powerful, of performance and accessibility. Humor is the underlying most important part of our human condition. I think everything should be smart and beautiful and holistically designed, meaning it is experimental and ecological. But in everything I inject some human spirit of humor because it lightens up this overtly serious thing we call life.

Q: Where do you find your inspiration?

A: I look way beyond design and architecture. Inspiration is accumulative. Everything can be inspiring. It is how you look at the world. I am inspired by my childhood, my education, by all my teachers I have ever had, by every project I have worked on, by every city I have traveled to, by every book I have read, by every art show I have seen, by every song I have heard, by every smell, every taste, sight, sound and feeling. Highly creative people in the world inspire me.

Q: What are some of your most popular products?

A: In 1997, I designed the OH chair for Umbra; that is still a very well-known chair and has sold over 1 million, and the Garbino waste can in 1996 for Umbra because they have sold 4 million to date in the U.S. and proved to me that Americans want design, but at an affordable price. In fact, the Garbino was just inducted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. I just released a beautiful hand vac for Dirt Devil called the Kone, which is selling well.

Q: Are there items that you haven’t designed yet but would like to?

A: I would love to design everything that we come into contact with as human beings, especially when they have a large impact on our psyche and experiences. There is so much to do. I want to design cars, planes, clothes, houses, robots, and shape the future.