Karim Rashid is one of this generation's most prolific and celebrated designers. He was CNN Style's guest editor
for September 2015, writing a series of features on design in the digital age.
I love to draw. Drawing is the most peaceful, cathartic experience, and has been my sole window to relaxation for the last 45 years of my life, basically since I could hold a pencil.
Today I rip through sketchbooks on a daily basis, using the pages as the best way to record my thoughts, fantasize about the future, and most importantly to express my ideas, so I can remember them later, and to discuss with my design team and to my clients. Drawing is inherent to artists and designers, but it's more than just a characteristic trait of creativity, it is the building blocks of communication for designers.
Today we can draw with many tools. I sketch on an iPad, I draw in Adobe Illustrator, I compose and sketch in Photoshop, and I even draw, illustrate and render in 3D using diverse software. All this is sketching to me.
As we progress and develop new technologies, the meaning of drawing, sketching, and illustration take on brand new definitions, meanings that sometimes seem to stray far from the pen-to-paper technique. But for me, nothing should replace the instantaneous connection of your mind to your hand, and the resulting form on paper, be it physical or virtual. I prefer my thoughts to come out fluidly, candidly, and in the moment, wherever the concept or dream occurs to me.
My life in sketch
The 25-story MyBrickell Urban Condo in Miami, Florida, designed by Karim Rashid Credit: Courtesy Karim Rashid
My life-long habit of sketching began at just the young age of five. My father was a painter and set designer for television in England, and after work he would take me out to draw churches. He taught me to see - he taught me perspective at that age - he taught me that I could draw anything and touch all aspects of our physical landscape.
I didn't know the word "design" yet, but I had already begun to think like a designer. I remember deciding I didn't like the shape of the windows, and so through sketching I was able to "reshape" them. When we left England for Canada on the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner, I remember winning a drawing competition for children.
Many kids drew landscapes, families and ships on oceans, but I drew luggage. I was obsessed with the idea that my parents managed to pack up our whole apartment condensed in a few crates and some suitcases; so I drew the 'organizing of things' (my own naive ideas of how to travel). As a young child I found the concept that I could form my own world, just through a pencil and paper, to be a powerful idea, one that has stayed with me.
"As a young child I found the concept that I could form my own world, just through a pencil and paper, to be a powerful idea, one that has stayed with me."
During my teens I read books from artists all over the world. I liked artists that were real draftsmen, the ones that had a fluid hand or a strong graphic quality I was obsessed with drawing faces, bodies, eyeglasses, shoes, radios, televisions, and fashion.
I remember reading about Raymond Lowey when I was 11. I loved his sketches of cars. I also admired so many artists from all the books scattered in the house: Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Le Corbusier, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, H.G. Geiger, Syd Mead, Paolo Soleri, Giorgio De Chirico, Charles Eames, Joan Miro, Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, Pierre Cardin, Verner Panton, Jean Courreges, Vasarley, Agam, and so many others. Design, art, architecture, fashion, literature, film were all the same to me; creation, beauty, communication, culture, and the human experience.
The digital age has a new language, a new vernacular I refer to as the 'Infosthetics', the aesthetics of information.
The premise is using new tools to tear down the boundaries of sketching, illustrating, drawing, and rendering. The new movement of techno graphics is creating a landscape that is hypertextual, hypergraphic, and hypertrophic. I believe that one day I may sketch just waving my hand in space, using different hand sign movements to change colors, scale, proportions, line weights, etc. For me sketching is a beautiful simple and immediate way to communicate and disseminate my ideas. It is my modus operandi.
When I was young I imagined a world that was robotic. I envisioned a world that would be seamless with technology, a place where we could communicate audibly, visually, in real time everywhere, anywhere.
And today it seems that world is here. With new technologies today, people can sketch with each other in real time. There are interactive sketchbooks where you can record a sound on a page, draw on the same sketch with someone half way around the world. There is software that allows us to draw in 3D.
Everyday new software and new interfaces emerge that allow artists, designers, and the global world to express their own vision, in ways that I could never have dreamed possible in my childhood
Today's world is even more beautiful, more digital, more visceral, more intuitive, more phantasmal than ever. When I sketch now I feel like I am embracing living, that I am celebrating being alive, more than just a line on paper, or a stroke across a digital touch screen, I am infused and inspired by this blurring of the physical and the digital, of a world that has more heightened human experiences than ever before in history. This is why I will never stop sketching.