Karim Rashid, Architect of Style, Receives 2017 Lawrence Israel Prize at FIT

It was a glorious time for students, faculty members, deans, chairs, and alums who revel in the work of the internationally celebrated “architect of style” Karim Rashid. The prolific industrial designer whose work spans architecture, art and fashion was here last week to receive the 2017 Lawrence Israel Prize. Endowed by a former Interior Design faculty member, the prize brings recognition to stellar work in the field of interior design.

Karim Rashid holding the 2017 Lawrence Israel Prize next to Chair Carmita Sanchez-Fong

“The students loved him. He was provocative, mesmerizing, the whole package, his speech, what he wears, his delivery, how he says it,” says Professor Johannes Knoops, Chair of the Lawrence Israel Prize selection committee.

“His work is full of color, joyful, full of patterns. He was captivating. He’s an industrial designer. He does everything, water bottles and juice bottles, interiors, surface design, sneakers. He’s huge.”

After gracefully receiving the award, in the shape of a oversized drafting triangle, Rashid spoke about his outlook and experiences in design.

Karim Rashid spoke after receiving the Lawrence Israel Award

With the arrival of the digital age, said Rashid. “the suppression of humanity” has been broken:

“There hasn’t been the opportunity of a freedom of expression of humanity for 10,000 years until now, the digital age. It’s only now we have been given tools to contribute, to create. You could argue the digital age has empowered individuality and creativity…We are living at the tipping point of analog and digital.”

Karim Rashid

“The obsession for me is to do something original–it’s everything…Why? Because I’m not going to be here very long. I can waste the moment or I can do somthing that might change humanity. Maybe a little, little nuance or effect.”

Says Carmita Sanchez-Fong, Chair of Interior Design: “He was very personal. He gave his point of view on what style is. It’s different than what the faculty would have said. Style is history for us–that’s what we teach–and he said it differently. He sees style as being in the past tense. That you should not try to make a copy of it–it’s not going to be as good.”

Sanchez-Fong went on to say “For us [faculty] the past informs the future. He talks about Baroque and Rembrandt as being in the past. He’s done so much great work. I admire what a tour de force of ideas he is. He’s a rebel!”

“The digital age has afforded many of us, if we have original thought, if we do manifest the idea, we can put the idea out there with very little capital investment with a lot less work.”

For Interior Design Professor Grazyna Pilatowicz: “We chose him because of his influence in the design world. He’s coming from industrial design and through that has influenced interior design. I appreciated that he spoke about design as it relates to the people who will occupy spaces and about design as an experience. That’s what we want students to do.”

Interior Design Chair Carmita Sanchez-Fong with Karim Rashid’s book “Sketch: Karim”

As much as he talks about the digital age, Rashid says he loves to draw and typically begins his designs with sketches.

Afterward in her office, Chair Sanchez-Fong reflected on Rashid’s book of sketches. Watch here:

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