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.

Read more

News and upcoming events

Papanek features in V&A Exhibition Catalogue

The work and ideas of Victor J Papanek are explored in a new essay by Professor Alison J. Clarke, Director of the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, in the new exhibition catalogue: You Say you Want a Revolution: Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum London explores how the 1960s have changed the way we live now and how we think about the future.

Entitled 'The chrome-plated marshmallow: 1960s consumer culture and its discontents', Clarke examines the contradictions and complexities of the counter-culture movement, situating Papanek's work and ideas within a wider international discourse.

This publication underlines Papanek as a central figure of interest for scholars and curators evaluating the legacies and impacts of design activism and alternative design systems, following last year's exhibition Hippie Modernism at the Walker Art Center, USA.



Roundtable discussion on international design organisations

Professor Alison J. Clarke, Director and Dr Leah Armstrong, Head of Archive at the Papanek Foundation have been invited to contribute to a Roundtable Discussion at the University of Brighton Internationalising Design History research center, on 6 October 2016.

The discussion brings together leading scholars of deisgn history and representatives from design organisations to discuss the impact and legacies of design organisations for design, past and present.

Guest Lecture: Edward Saunders
25 May 2016, Seminaraum Postgasse, 16:30

"Negotiating Questions of Method in Biography"

Although biography is one of the most popular forms of historical writing, as a literary genre it is notoriously resistant to theory. This creates a challenge for historians of culture seeking to adopt critical approaches to life narratives. This guest lecture will present biography studies as a research field, exploring some of its central topics and drawing on the case study of the emigré writer Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), chiefly famous for his novel Darkness at Noon. Widely read in his lifetime, Koestler was also an accomplished non-fiction writer and autobiographer whose own life story became the source of considerable controversy.

Dr. Edward Saunders is Researcher and Deputy Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography, Vienna.

This seminar is being hosted by the Department of Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna, in connection with the FWF research project ‘Emigre Culture Networks and the Founding of Social Design’.

Guest Lecture: Christopher Long
23 May 2016, Seminaraum, Postgasse 6, 18:00

"Central European Modernists and the Varieties of Southern California Design"

Christopher Long is University Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director of the Architectural History Program in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. His many publications include include Josef Frank: Life and Work (2002), Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design (2007), The Looshaus (2011), and Kem Weber: Designer and Architect (2014).

This seminar is being hosted by the Department of Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna, in connection with the FWF research project ‘Emigre Culture Networks and the Founding of Social Design’.



Symposium: Undesign
2 June 2016, University of Applied Arts, Vienna

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


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

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.




Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia
October 2015 - February 2016

Material from the Victor J. Papanek archive features in a new exhibition at the Walker Art Centre entitled Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (24 Oct 2015- 28 Feb 2016).

Works by Papanek featured in the exhibition include photographs of his radical designs of the early 1970s, such as '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), (c.1971).

Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia is a travelling exhibition that examines the intersections of art, architecture and design of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s in Galleries 1, 2, 3 and the Reiman Gallery. It has been curated by Andrew Blauvelt, Senior Curator at the Walker Art Centre.




Book discussion with John Thackara

The Design History and Theory department of the University of Applied Arts Vienna is pleased to host an evening discussion with John Thackara, Papanek Foundation advisory board member.


(Thames & Hudson: September 2015)

Café Prückel

Stubenring 24

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

18:30/6:30 pm

John is an internationally recognized scholar and curator who has been called by Business Week “one of the great voices on sustainability”. His previous books include the best-selling In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World. Along the way, John has been a magazine editor; a publisher; Director of Research at the Royal College of Art, where he is now a Senior Fellow; and Director of the Netherlands Design Institute. He has curated two national biennials – Designs Of The Time in the UK, and City Eco Lab in France – and nine Doors of Perception conferences in Amsterdam, and India; the Economic Times of India praised these events for their “brilliant insights into the internet and sustainability”.


For more information see: http://www.doorsofperception.com/thackarathrive/

Utrecht Manifest symposium, June 26 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.




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

"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

Read More

Permanent Garbage:
Victor Papanek and Beautiful Visions of Failed Systems December 4, 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
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons The New School for Design, September 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.

September 26 -December 15, 2014

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

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.

May 27 - May 28, 2015

University Applied Arts Vienna

Oskar Kokoschka Platz 2

Vienna 1010, Austria

UnBox Festival 2014
28-30 November, New Delhi

UnBox Festival is a response to the emergence of a new subculture: one that straddles the spirit of innovation, is fostered by an enterprising spirit, and invites the engagement of all senses. UnBox manifests itself as a blend of different events - including a conference, workshops, exhibitions and performances - designed in sync with one another, to stimulate thought, debate and action.

The UnBox Festival celebrates interdisciplinary processes and experiences that shape contemporary thought and action.

Read More

Unbox Labs 2014
Creative Lab Research Project India

Unbox Labs 2014 are seeking 8 creative practitioners & 8 researchers from the UK along with 20 creative practitioners & researchers from India, to collaborate on and initiate exciting projects that respond to the challenges of our urban futures. During the 10-day lab from 24 Feb-7 March 2014, the group will work together in small teams, along with local mentors and advisors, on-site in India at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. At the end of the lab, participants will present their work to a group of mentors, advisors and interested organizations. The lab will provide the opportunity and space to pursue a creative project that builds on your own skills while also leveraging complementary skills and attitudes provided by the team as well as the mentor group.

Read more

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

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

November 14 2013, 18:00.

Public event, free of charge.

Papanek Symposium 2013
Alternative and Emerging Economies of Design

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

November 14-15,  2013

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

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.

Read More

Papanek Symposium 2011
Anti-Design: Prescription for Rebellion?

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.

Read more



Image: Part collage designed by Manuel Miranda Practice (with Yuyeon Cho) for the How Things Don't Work: The Dreamspace of Victor Papanek exhibition at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons The New School for Design. © Papanek Foundation.


Mailing list

Subscribe to receive information regarding Papanek Foundation events.