Designocracy: democratizing design for everyday life, design for everyday people

Daily Star Egypt Staff
7 Min Read

CAIRO: In a stylistically orchestrated address, Karim Rashid, spoke to a full audience at the Cairo Opera House about the direction of 21 century design. In coordination with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Industrial Modernization Center sponsored Rashid’s lecture as part of a continued effort to support global integration of the Egyptian industrial businesses sector.

The lecture focused on the identification of design criteria in the contemporary and international market.

In a bubble-gum pink suite and silver sneakers, and with a commanding, casual tone, Rashid wore his philosophy on his sleeve.

The designer stressed the importance of a reflective relationship between art and its moment of conception. He challenged the audience to consider and create designs, which account for movements in our present society, examining such factors as the youth driven market; the trend towards informality; the emphasis on pleasure; the ever-growing need for sustainability; and the importance of the virtual world as distinctive components of our contemporary culture and necessary factors in our designs.

“The physical world has to be of the same caliber of the digital age that I live in, he said. Rejecting nostalgia, Rashid pushes the idea of innovation. Yet the designer’s wholehearted embrace of technology and his controversial claims that “craft is no longer in existence, “the hand can never keep up with the machine, and “the imitation of history is the worst thing we can do make opened Rashid to criticism of being insensitive to culture.

Nevertheless, Rashid is not unaware of historically innovative development. From the Eiffel Tower to the Pyramids, he gave examples of design, which has been contemporary in its time.

The lecturer explained: “New, means using the tools of the moment and the day and age in which we live.

Additionally, Rashid made allowances for specific geographical and cultural contexts in contemporary design, but, he says, “We don’t have to copy history to speak about place. Rashid showed one of his designs for a Turkish vase company, in which he abstracted Arabic calligraphy writing of the name “Allah. While the piece was received with much controversy, it was also the company’s most popular selling item.

Rashid seemed to imply that his design’s break from tradition is what made it successful. However he also says, “There is critical history in each culture that needs to be brought into the process and retained, but also needs to be disseminated.

While the designer could stand to clarify his terminology, one might conclude that while nostalgia is an outmoded lense, a contemporary reinterpretation of history can still have global potential.

Rashid’s designs are governed by his value of accessibility and openness. He believes that a well designed product is a vehicle for democracy. He says “the agenda of industrial design is to make a better life for a larger audience. I call that, Designocracy.

He still touts the value of individuals in the technological age. The infinite possibilities of the digital world and the accessibility of technology provide space for the creativity of “individual visionaries.

Using the example of the recent Doritos Super Bowl ad campaign, which was made by the winners of a You Tube competition, Rashid explained how even multi-national brands are forced to either compete or embrace the market’s new penetrability. He sees a supportive relationship between globalization and individual consumer expression. Consumers have the power to dictate the success or failure of commercial products.

Rashid believes that “We have solved function and we have to evolve to the notion of pleasure. With such a premium on pleasure, aesthetic consciousness is profitable enough for mass production and affordable enough to allow average consumers the possibility of expressing their outward individuality.

“You do not need a lot of capital for design.

Rashid excited his audience with the possibility of a time when design might not just anticipate culture, but propel it. He hopes his own work might “design and denote the day and in which I live. The images of his organic veggie fast-food restaurants, polymer based inclined chairs, fused plastic high heels, modernized cleaning fluids, and more, flashing on a screen behind him, show us his play with possibility.

However after exalting the potential of design, Rashid closed by focusing on its disposability. He looks forward to a day when there is “no sacredness of objects, a day when “objects are just to use. He advocates, fast moving products, which are about an experience and not ownership.

“Digital allows us to be immaterial, he says.

While these hopes seemed comically otherworldly for an industrial designer, Karim Rashid’s limitless exuberance is also the key to his success.

While his lecture was not specific to Egyptian design, Rashid finally comments: “Ancient Egypt was a birthplace of civilization; its impact was one of the greatest in the world.

Hi finale seemed not only to be an acknowledgement, but a reminder, a prompt for the possibility of a continued legacy of influence. Laughing about the contextually abysmal painting of Roman ruins in his Hyatt hotel room bathroom, Rashid asked the audience to find contemporary criteria within Egyptian society, which calls for innovative and culturally responsive perspective and design.

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