About the Victor J. Papanek Foundation

The Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna, seeks to advance the understanding of design from the perspective of social responsibility. It supports design as an innovative and creative practice with the potential to transform societies and enhance human well-being. Inspired by Victor Papanek’s critical and cross-cultural approach to design culture, the newly established Foundation will further an inclusive approach to design that challenges the purely commercial imperative of product culture.

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News and upcoming events

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design

An exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum in collaboration with the Victor J.  Papanek Foundation curated by Alison J. Clarke and Amelie Klein

28 September 2018 – 10 March 2019

The Papanek Foundation presents the international travelling exhibition Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design, co-curated and organised with Vitra Design Museum opening September 29 2018 in Weil Am Rhein, Germany. The expansive show presents varied and previously unseen materials from the Papanek Foundation archive pertaining to design activist Victor Papanek’s lifelong career, highlighting the crucial theme of design as a political and social tool. Alongside the exploration of Papanek’s links with key thinkers and design figures, ranging from media theorist Marshall McLuhan, maverick futurist Buckminster Fuller to leading feminist graphic designer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, the exhibition casts light on the legacy of 1960s and 1970s activism through the presentation of contemporary exhibits dealing with politically pertinent issues ranging from state violence, to climate change, bio-synthetics, and the precariousness of citizenship.

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design features work from cutting edge practitioners such as: Forensic Architecture; Natsai Audrey Chieza; Flui Colectivo; Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg; Femke Herregraven; NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism/Hypen-Labs; Lucy and Jorge Orta; Tomás Saraceno; Maya Jay Varadaraj.

Curated by Professor Alison J. Clarke with Amelie Klein, Vitra Design Museum and curatorial advisor Jan Boelen, Design Academy Eindhoven.

Papanek Foundation archival management, Dr. Leah Armstrong

This exhibition is a cooperation between the Vitra Design Museum and the Barcelona Design Museum, in collaboration with the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna, and is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

Further information


International Design Organisations
Legacies, Histories, Values

9 -10 November 2017

A conference exploring the histories, legacies and values of international design organisations in a post-industrial, post-organisational world.

The Victor J. Papanek Foundation, in collaboration with the Internationalising Design History Research Cluster at the University of Brighton, is pleased to announce a conference to discuss the histories, legacies and values of international design organisations to take place at the University of Brighton, UK.


Prof. Jeremy Aynsley, Tania Messell and Dora Souza Dias, Internationalising Design History Research Cluster, University of Brighton.

Prof. Alison J Clarke and Dr Leah Armstrong, Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna.



Papanek Symposium 2017

Design and Ethics

Austrian Embassy, 18 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PX

22 September 2017

The Papanek Symposium 2017 will explore questions of ethics in design. Bringing academics and designers into dialogue, it aims to generate new ideas and critical thinking on the state of ethics in design and architecture today.

Speakers include Jan Boelen (Z33), David Breummer (5-D Robotics), Dr Bianca Eizenbaumer (Brave New Alps), Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg (Royal College of Art), Dr Orit Halpern (Concordia University), Dr Alison Powell (London School of Economics), Matthias Tarasiewicz (Research Institute for Arts and Technology), Professor Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths, University of London).

Directed by Alison J. Clarke

Organised by Leah Armstrong and Alison J. Clarke

Hosted by His Excellency Dr. Martin Eichtinger, Austrian Ambassador to the United Kingdom



Papanek Lecture 2017

Eyal Weizman

22 September 2017 18:00

Austrian Embassy, 18 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PX

Professor Eyal Weizman, Architect,  Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures and Director of the Center for Research Architecture, Principal Investigator, Forensic Architecture, at Goldsmiths, University of London will deliver the 2017 Papanek Lecture.

Public event, free of charge.


Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia

8 February 2017- 21 May 2017

Material from the Victor J. Papanek archive is presently featured in the exhibition Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia at the Berkeley Art Museum, University of California (BAMPFA) which examines the intersection of art, architecture and design in 1960s and early 1970s US counterculture.

Works featured include photographs of his radical designs including 'Big Character Poster No.1: Work Chart for Designers (1973), the Tin Can Radio ('Radio Receiver designed for the Third World') (c.1971) and Artificial Burrs (1964-70).

Organized by the Walker Art Center in association with the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), the exhibition was curated by Andrew Blauvelt, director of Cranbrook Art Museum.

Papanek Foundation, Director, Alison J. Clarke contributed a catalogue essay to accompany the exhibition entitled Buckminster Fuller's Reindeer Abattoir and Other Designs for the Real World.

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Symposium: Undesign

2 June 2016

Convened by Björn Franke as part of the FWF Research Project/ Émigré Design Networks & the Founding of Social Design led by Alison J. Clarke

What does it mean when the outcome of a design process is the decision not to produce an object? Is this a design decision? How can designers work outside the narrow constraints of the profession and deal with real world issues? Is design for behaviour change an appropriate tool and what are the limitations of this approach? How might ‘undesign’ processes be used as a medium through which to investigate a design issue?

This symposium explores new and emergent critical positions in design through the concept of “undesign”. Led by a panel of international designers and design researchers, the symposium takes the concept of ‘undesigning’ to mean reducing, simplifying, removing or eliminating design (and complexity). Building on the tradition of critical design, it aims to uncover and examine new functions for contemporary design.

Speakers include Ramia Mazé (Aalto University), Thomas Thwaites (Designer), Marloes ten Bhömer (Designer), Jochen Eisenbrand (Vitra Design Museum), Sarah Owens (Zurich University of the Arts), Francisco Laranjo (London College of Communication), Catharine Rossi (Kingston University), Maiko Tsutsumi, (Camberwell College of Arts).

Full Programme

Utrecht Manifest Symposium

26 June 2015

Utrecht Manifest, Netherlands, celebrates its ten year anniversary 26 June 2015 with a symposium launching the book ‘Design for the Good Society’ exploring the concept of the social in design culture, including a chapter considering the legacy of Victor J. Papanek and émigré design culture of the 20th century.

Full Programme

How Things Don't Work Exhibition in The Architect's Newspaper

8 December 2014

"If you see only one design show this year make it How Things Don’t Work at the The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons."
William Menking

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Permanent Garbage:
Victor Papanek and Beautiful Visions of Failed Systems

4 December 2014

Panel discussion in the exhibition How Things Don’t Work: The Dreamspace of Victor Papanek, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, NYC.

With speakers including exhibition curators Alison Clarke (Director, Papanek Foundation), Jamer Hunt (Director, Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons The New School For Design), Fiona Raby (Professor of Design, University of Applied Arts Vienna), with Paola Antonelli (MoMA), Gerald Bast (Rector, University of Applied Arts Vienna) and Stuart Candy (Director, Situation Lab).

The panel discussion is a collaborative event organised by Parsons The New School for Design and the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.

Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

Parsons The New School For Design

2 W 13th St, New York, NY 10011, United States

How Things Don't Work
The Dreamspace of Victor Papanek

26 September - 15 December 2014

Featuring rich and previously unexplored materials from the Victor Papanek archive in dialogue with the work of emerging designers from Vienna, London, and New York City, this exhibition challenges Victor Papanek’s legacy of socially committed design by bringing it into conversation with contemporary work by a new generation of speculative and critical designers.

In the four decades since How Things Don’t Work (1977) was written by controversial design critic Victor Papanek and his co- author James Hennessey, the context for design has grown ever more complex. Globalization and the rise of information technologies have created both opportunities and challenges that did not exist when Papanek, an out-spoken advocate for social design, was first practicing. Innovations in computer, biological, and financial systems have collided with a looming environmental catastrophe to deeply challenge the core presumption of design as a social good. The rise of interconnected information networks has created unprecedented communication and collaborative possibilities while also inundating us with more information than we can reasonably process.

This tension- between awareness and paralysis and between too much and too little- has intensified exponentially since the 1970s when Papanek’s ideas were most influential. Moreover, design culture over the past decade has seen a dramatic shift from the designing of products to that of systems that support social change and speculation. This has challenged designers to reimagine how they design and for which contexts.

The exhibition’s four sections feature video, digitized slides, and print that juxtapose contemporary, speculative projects from emerging designers with visionary excerpts from the Papanek archive. Together, they create a kaleidoscopic “dreamspace” built out of fragments of our social imaginary and challenging the viewer to consider how we might design ourselves out of our dystopian present.

Curated by Alison Clarke, Director of the Victor Papanek Foundation (University of Applied Arts, Vienna), Jamer Hunt (Director, Transdisciplinary Design graduate program, Parsons The New School for Design), and Fiona Raby (Professor, Industrial Design, University of Applied Arts, Vienna and Reader, Design Interactions, Royal College of Art, London).

The exhibition is a collaboration between Parsons The New School for Design and the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.

Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

Parsons The New School For Design

2 W 13th St, New York, NY 10011, United States

Papanek Symposium 2015
Émigré Design Culture: Histories of the Social in Design

27 May 27 - 28 May 2015

The biennial Papanek Symposium brings together internationally renowned historians, social scientists and curators to discuss the historical origins of social design and the legacy of Victor Papanek's humanist agenda in design.

Speakers include Professor Eve Blau (Harvard University); Professor Christopher Long (University of Texas at Austin); Professor Felicity D. Scott (Columbia University).

Convened by Senior Researcher Dr. Elana Shapira as part of the Papanek Foundation & University of Applied Arts Vienna Design History & Theory Department FWF (Austrian Science Fund) project Émigré Cultural Networks and the Founding of Social Design.

University Applied Arts Vienna

Oskar Kokoschka Platz 2

Vienna 1010, Austria

Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Research Award 2013-2016
Victor J Papanek: Émigré Cultural Networks & the Founding of Social Design


The University of Applied Arts Vienna has been awarded a major Austrian Scientific Fund (FWF) grant supporting an international team of research scholars exploring the theoretical foundations of social design. The project, led by Univ. Professor Alison J. Clarke (Director, Victor J. Papanek Foundation) and including senior researcher Dr. Elana Shapira and junior researcher Bryleigh Morsink, involves a three-year intensive research project (2013-2016) highlighting the legacy of Victor Papanek's work.

Papanek Lecture 2013
Frugal Digital Design? Technology for the Underserved

14 November 2013

Vinay Venkatraman, co-founder of Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) and TED speaker, will address the issue of digital design in alternative and emerging economies.

Trained as a product & interaction designer in India and Italy, Vinay helps shape policy initiatives for the Danish government and consults for global companies on innovation around new product experiences and design strategy; previous clients include Nokia, Intel, Novo Nordisk, Maersk line, Lufthansa Technik, Philips lighting. His passion lies in incubating new technological ideas, finding new models of sustainable socio-economic development using appropriate technologies; he will be sharing these ideas in the 2nd Papanek Memorial Lecture.

AULA der Wissenschaften, Wollzeile 27a, 1010 Vienna, Austria. Map

Public event, free of charge.

Papanek Symposium 2013
Alternative and Emerging Economies of Design

14-15 November 2013

The Papanek Symposium 2013 brings together international experts from China, Europe, India, Singapore, and the US, to examine the social and political imperative of design in emerging economies.

Design in the 21st century, harnessed by rising powers striving for economic competitiveness and cultural profile on the world stage, has taken on a newly urgent political significance. The unprecedented quantity of production and cultural engagement with design, from China to India, is shaping our collective futures. Can alternative design genres develop on the periphery of established neo-liberal models of economics and consumer culture? What is their potential to generate social innovation and challenge pre-existing, unsustainable economies of production?

Alternative and Emerging Economies of Design: The Social Imperative of Global Design joins together voices from leading international design institutes, research thinktanks, social science projects and applied design initiatives to question the social futures of design. From the frugal digital initiative led by TED-speaker Vinay Venkatraman (frugaldigital.org), to the ethnographic corporate research of PARC Xerox (parc.com) and the smaller scale initiatives of hybrid design innovators (quicksand.co.in), this second Papanek Symposium offers a unique perspective on the design politics of emerging economies.

AULA der Wissenschaften, Wollzeile 27a, 1010 Vienna, Austria. Map

Curated by Alison Clarke with Heng Zhi

Kindly supported by the Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs

Public event, free of charge.

Design For The Real World Exhibition
Helen Hamlyn Centre For Design

21 September - 3 October 2012

The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design's annual exhibition of work by its research associates will take place at the Royal College of Art this autumn as part of the 2012 London Design Festival. Its title pays homage to the 40th anniversary of the English-language publication of Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek.

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Papanek Symposium 2011
Anti-Design: Prescription for Rebellion?

9-11 November 2011

The Victor J. Papanek symposium celebrates the legacy of Papanek as a leading critical thinker of design. Each bi-annual event embraces a timely theme, bringing together interdisciplinary speakers to discuss and debate issues with a bearing on contemporary design practice.

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