What is garbage?


This was a response to a post from a couple days ago. J’s response deserves as much space as the original. Thanks J.

“You know, Karim Rashid is a total wanker. The words are his but the idea isn’t and I wonder if he really actually Gets It.

The Garbo trash can Rashid designed in 1995 was his first big contribution to making our lives better. If Rashid were a rock star, the Garbo would have gone platinum. Rashid says somewhere between four and six million trash cans were sold.

It boils my blood when someone like Rashid makes these grand sweeping statements (vaguely implying a sense of ethics or morality) about the industry they contribute to when they have such a wasteful claim to fame. And for a writer to say that the Garbo trash can is a contribution to “making our lives better” is a total farce.

Imagine shaping human behaviour so that rather than buying between four and six million trash cans, essentially for the purpose of filling with garbage, we were inspired to recycle four to six million garbo trash cans worth of plastic instead.”

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  • Litherland

    Hm. I have very mixed feelings about Karim Rashid, but I like my Garbo trash can (which I bought for something like four dollars, ten years ago, and still use) because it was cheaper and prettier than anything else on the shelf.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a wanker. Being really really really into yourself and your image and self-promotion and marketing (yourself) seems more of a character flaw than anything else. I don’t honestly expect Rashid to inspire people to recycle plastic because that’s not his role. He’s an industrial designer; he designs stuff. It would be great if he focused on sustainability and environmental awareness and evangelized for those issues (and it would be great if all designers did), but he’s too flakey for that. Even if he decided to give lip service to things like recycling, it would come off as completely fake and therefore probably wouldn’t inspire too many people.

    Personally, I’m very invested in “green” issues. But I recognize that not all designers are. Rashid has designed some artifacts that I for one think are great and will endure. I can’t completely write him off just because he’s a flake, a bit touchy-feely in his pronouncements, and self-involved.

    The guy is a big contradiction: he believes in designing stuff that looks good and functions well and is cheap enough to be accessible to just about anyone; at the same time, he unreflexively celebrates planned obsolescence when he gushes about “rapidly moving goods.” But I guess I’d rather note the contradictions and ironies coursing just beneath the shallow surface than dismiss him altogether.

  • http://www.michaelsurtees.com michael

    I’m not sure where I stand w/ Karim and his philosophy. Between his persona and ID in general it’s difficult to divide the two. It’s something that I need more time to think about.

  • http://mathematos.com E. Tage Larsen

    “Between his persona and ID”


    I’ve generally found that when people start to cultivate that schism you’re better off pushing both the person and the personality off a short pier.

  • http://www.romitadesign.com Jennifer Romita

    The Garbo trash can is a design contradiction if nothing else.

    On one hand, it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at. On the other hand, when it’s put to use, the wide open top exposes all the garbage contents to whomever looks at it.

    Given this, is Garbo a design joke played by Rashid? If so, have consumers and reviewers been fooled and has he built his career and image on market mockery?