Victor Papanek

Individual – United States

1927 – 1999

Victor Papanek (1927-1999) was a designer and educator who promoted ethical design that was socially and ecologically responsible. His ideas encompassed both design and architecture, based in his practical experience in industrial design and also influenced by his interest in anthropology. Papanek spent time studying and living with Navajos, Inuit and Balinese communities, where he explored the relationships between different societies and their tools. He admonished developed societies for designing products that were not suited to their task and being far too concerned with aesthetics.

Papanek was also a vocal critic of multi-national corporations and the consumer culture that was causing large-scale damage to the environment, calling for an increased awareness of environmental issues in industrial design practices and construction. He published a number of highly influential books on the topic including Design for the Real World (1971) and The Green Imperative (1995) both of which are user-centred takes on design and the ethical responsibilities of the designer.

Other Work

Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, 2nd edn (Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1985).

---, The Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture (London: Thames & Hudson, 1995).

References About

Frank Jackson, 'Design for the real world: human ecology and social change [by] Victor Papanek [book review]', Journal of design history, 6 (1993): 307-310.

Roy Johnson, 'Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change [review]', Designophy, [accessed 16 June 2010].

Ton Matton, 'The green imperative: ecology and ethics in design and architecture [by] Victor Papanek [book review]', Architect, 28 (1997): 89.

Adam Richardson, 'Papanek's ghost [obituary]', Metropolis, 17 (1998), 120.

Aidan Walker, 'Real appeal', Designers' journal, 1991, 46-47.

'Victor Papanek', Art + Culture, [accessed 16 June 2010].


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