Victor Papanek - a rebel with a cause

Design for the Real World could be seen as a pretty provocative title for a book. That is, until you read the first sentence "There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few of them." or this "... by creating whole species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breath, designers have become a dangerous breed." Now, that is in-your-face writing. And no, not the thoughts of current ecodesign hero, William McDonough, but those of Victor Papanek, who wrote the book and those words, a worrying 34 years ago. Not so well known these days, Victor, was the modern father of responsible design, both for the planet and for human society. He believed designer's skills were squandered devising gizmos and trinkets, when genuine work was required to make the world a better place. A man truly well before his time, he advocated strongly for better design for ...... the disabled, infirm, developing world community and others not normally benefiting from the work of 'western' design studios. "The only important thing about design is how it relates to people." He was a powerful voice for change: Design for the Real World was published in 23 languages. But while the speed of technological development hurtles along, seemingly at the speed of light, our understanding of the needs of Victor's 'real world' shuffle at a snail's pace. Displeased by this inertia Victor tried again to light a fire in designers' conscience, with his equally acclaimed book of the mid 90s: The Green Imperative. His voice, like that of his contemporaries Buckminster Fuller and EF Schumacher, inspired design professionals the world over. Time has not wearied his words, they are as relevant now, if not more so, than when first penned. See a different world - read one of his books. But be warned - it could well be a life changing experience. The passion, with which he delivers his important messages can be contagious. We could do with more visionaries of his ilk. (No definitive websites, that we've seen, but look under 'Cult Designers' at designophy for a bit more meat, err, tofu, than most.) [by WM]