Bonfire of the Vanities

BE083442I noticed a shot of Karim Rashid recently and it got me wondering how much he might have in common on the subject of design with another sartorial exhibitionist in white, Tom Wolfe. Seems not much.

Tom Wolfe was recently interviewed at Yale by Peter Eisenmann, on the 25th anniversary of his assault on modern architecture, From Bauhuas To Our House, He spent a good deal of time slamming modernism in design. In this case architecture, but I suspect he would have the same criticism of the simplicity inherent in Rashid’s product design work as well.

He is apparently as critical of the practitioners as he is of the modernist movement itself. He went on to say, “This charming aristocracy of taste began gradually to infiltrate all of the arts and praise things that the masses don’t comprehend or find ugly,”

A Yale reporter, Isaac Arnsdorf, maintained that “Wolfe, who described himself as a ‘social secretary’ who observes and records cultural trends, framed modernism as an attempt to banish the bourgeois ornateness of classical architecture.”

Karim Rashid has a very different take on the role and function of design, modern or otherwise. He says on his website,  

“My real desire is to see people live in the modus of our time, to participate in the contemporary world, and to release themselves from nostalgia, antiquated traditions, old rituals, kitsch and the meaningless. We should be conscious and attune with this world in this moment. If human nature is to live in the past – to change the world is to change human nature.”

Wouldn’t you just love to get these two guys together? Wonder how we could arrange it? Just having them walk on stage together, and see them side by side, would be worth the price of admission. Looks to me like the only design opinion these two guys share is the color of their suit.

At there is another interesting take on good taste, Karim Rashid, and Tom Wolfe, written by Kelvin Browne of the National Post.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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