Friday, May 05, 2006

Belgrade Design Week 2: Reaction to Karim Rashid

I completely agree with Karim (can I call you Karim?) that design has become democratic, either through the possibilities of customization of products and services or at least the increased ability to choose due to hyper-production.
He articulated some of the things I feel about the importance of expression – how so many people who are unhappy say it is because of a lack of creativity in their life. I felt that. I felt that I missed some of the creative outlets I used to have, which I have had to give up under pressure from obligations and assignments. That was the basic reason for starting this blog.
Everyone is a designer, he said, and I really believe it is so. And I think it goes beyond that, I think everyone is an artist, or at least can be. Now this, of course, opens up the problem of definitions, that if everything is art, maybe nothing is, but I do not agree that art is dead. It has taken new forms, penetrated all segments of life, and I think is as relevant and alive as it ever was.

Basically, Karim spoke in big bombastic statements but I fail to see how that is reflected in his work. How can you say that brands are dead, if you are yourself a brand, and anyone and anything can become a brand. We could say that the meaning of brands is changing that they are reinventing themselves, that brands too have become dynamic and even democratic.
He also criticized designers, especially fashion designers, for drawing from the past. But if design is democratic and we all live, as he said, in a digital age and are aware of our choices, then if we STILL decide to CHOOSE something from the past, we make it contemporary. If someone likes it and uses it, it’s fresh and new. We make the design contemporary not the other way round.
A complete break from the past, using strange shapes, digital prints, and painting everything pink and silver does not in itself make something modern. In fact, Karim’s design to me even seems a bit retro and seventies.
Karim Rashid is a skillful craftsman, but for me it is design for the sake of design, aestheticism and fashion. It has no background story, no justification. No context, no relevance.

On the other hand I was completely blown away by Ross Lovegrove - an amazing and inspiring man who deserved every minute of the standing ovation he got. It was one of those moments when you believe you see things clearly and say to yourself: from now on I’m gonna recycle, and …eat right and… fight for justice! He really demonstrated how design can be so much more than superficial form. That it can and should innovate and educate and be visionary. Thank you Ross!

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