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DESIGN FOR THE AGE OF CASUALISM

KARIM RASHID | DESIGNER

Ottawa sofa by Karim Rashid

ASK PEOPLE TO DEFINE WORK-LIFE BALANCE OR BLEND AND YOU GET A MYRIAD OF ANSWERS. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU IN 2018?

As I write this interview I am in bed with an oat-milk latte and my laptop. It is 6am and I can’t sleep. Usually, I try to turn off all tech and keep it away from the bed, but I have fallen into the non-stop connectivity of our digital age, where there is a blurring of all social and human behaviours. Hence, this is the new casual age in which we live. We work, dream, love, learn and play anywhere and everywhere, with no boundaries.

We have evolved into the age of Casualism, which is a spiritual, physical and mental condition and one could say represents real freedom. Freedom to work and play anywhere and everywhere simultaneously. Ideally, our lives should be focused on comfort, ease, seamless experiences and fluid technology.

DESCRIBE THE ROLE OF WELL-CONSIDERED DESIGN IN THE NURTURING OF A SUCCESSFUL WORKSPACE AND CULTURE. 
A few years ago, I moved to a new office with beautiful windows and seamless design, and it has been a great boost to my productivity. The flexible space accommodates the permanent staff, short-term freelancers and interns, as well as transforming into a space for events and gallery shows. Everything in the office is well designed and holistically works with the objects around them.

I’ve designed from high to low budget spaces. Most budgets for luxury spaces are spent on old notions of luxurious cladding and materials – making the bathrooms all in marble, etc. I prefer to use smart more inexpensive intelligent contemporary surfaces and materials and use the budget to create human experiences. Well- considered design is perfect lighting for a multitude of tasks and times of day, flexible environments and seamless technology.

HOW DID YOU APPLY THIS THINKING TO THE OTTAWA SOFA SYSTEM?
The Ottawa collection was designed around my philosophy of ‘sensual minimalism;’ soft, comfortable, human, with character yet reductive. I created the Ottawa sofa for my own needs. I am the consumer too. I travel constantly and am always having meetings in public spaces, hotel lobbies, cafes or clients’ showrooms. It is astounding to experience the lack of thought put into so much public and contract work.

Seating in hotels is always so far away from one another, with huge oversized coffee tables in the way. I can’t communicate with someone 4 feet away over a modernist slab table. There should be a sense of intimacy. But at the same time, you should be able to be very private and work in your own world. I needed the collection to be totally reconfigurable and scalable to meet all social and human needs.

WITH YOUR PROLIFIC OUTPUT, DO YOU STRUGGLE TO BALANCE WORK AND LIFE?
I am not happy unless I’m busy and feel like I am accomplishing something even if it is minor. My work is my life and defines me. I have always said, “make your hobby your job,” then you will be truly happy and contribute more to this world. I don’t think of life as ‘work’ versus ‘fun’ I just see it as bringing meaning to one’s life. But I also stay relaxed by working out every day, drinking and eating raw organic foods, sleeping 7 hours a night, and frequently getting massages.

WHAT DO YOU ENVISAGE FOR THE FUTURE OF WORKSPACE DESIGN?
Offices are our new communities/families. We have evolved into the age of Casualism. Our lives are focused on comfort, ease, seamlessness and technology. Open floor plans have brightened and opened our lives. The offices and public spaces must be beautifully furnished – no longer merely a workspace but with increased flexibility; less permanence.

Our spaces will continue to evolve with technology and social change. Longevity as a doctrine is over. We live in a perpetual, temporal, evanescent experience and our spaces should reflect this moment in which we live.

Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid is one of the most prolific and awarded industrial designers of our time. We asked him about his thoughts on work-life blend, the future of our workspaces, and how he already designs with that vision in mind.

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