Papanek Symposium 2013
Emerging and Alternative 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?

Emerging and Alternative 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 (, to the ethnographic corporate research of PARC Xerox ( and the smaller scale initiatives of hybrid design innovators (, this second Papanek Symposium offers a unique perspective on the design politics of emerging economies.

Venue: 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. Register here

The Lecture and Symposium are conducted in English.

Papanek Lecture 2013

14 November 2013

17.45 Welcome

Dr. Gerald Bast
University of Applied Arts Vienna

Ambassador Dr. Martin Eichtinger
Director General for Cultural Policy
Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs
Vienna, Austria


18.00-19.00 Lecture

Vinay Venkatraman
Frugal Digital Design? Technology for the Underserved


19.00-20.00 Reception

Papanek Symposium 2013

15 November 2013


9.00-10.00 Registration


10.00-10.30 Introduction
Alison J. Clarke
Director, Papanek Foundation
University of Applied Arts Vienna

10.30-12.30 Session 1

Chair: Lee Davis
Centre for Social Design, MICA, Baltimore, USA


Sulfikar Amir
Professor, Department of Sociology
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Rice, Cellphone, and Imaginative Futures:
Reconstructing Design in the Asian Globalization
The current rise of Asia as the new major player in the world changes the landscape of globalization, politically, economically, and culturally. As the region is accumulating wealth more than ever, it faces unprecedented problems that come from hyper-consumption and rapid obsoleteness as a result of the culture of late capitalism. This raises a set of new challenges for design in Asia and the world. What is the implication of this global shift to design, both theoretically and practically? How can design be more relevant in the era where risk and crisis increasingly mark our everyday life? This presentation discusses design from an epistemological and institutional perspective to illustrate how design can be transformed in order to anticipate what lies in the future. Drawing on Science and Technology Studies (STS), the presentation offers a new framework to reconstruct design theory and practice that can contribute to sustaining socio-ecological life in Asia and beyond.


Jonathan Barnbrook
Barnbrook, Creative & Graphic Design Studio, London

What you want is not what you need
The presentation discusses aspects of the social role of the designer in the world today from the viewpoint of a practising designer with analysis and own work examples. This not a simple 'show and tell' but attempts to tackle more unconventional issues which are often not discussed in the insular world of design history. Designers are more than ever before facing an extremely confusing Ideological landscape. How do designers survive in a world where the definitions of what is commercial, non-commercial, ethical, non-ethical, political and cultural constantly shift? How should they work when we live with a media that constantly craves 'celebrity' rather than the analysis of serious purpose that is the foundation of good design? Finally I will tackle that very simple question of whether a piece of graphic design can or ever has changed the world.


Makiko Taniguchi
Senior Anthropologist
Emerging Markets/Innovation
PARC Silicon Valley, California

"Learn from Shanzhai":
China's Grass-Roots Design and Innovation Phenomena
The presentation discusses China’s Shanzhai, copycat phenomenon from the perspective of an open platform for grassroots innovation. Instead of approaching the topic in terms of the infringement of copyrights, as an anthropologist I would like to draw attention to some uniquely Chinese designs, which we can harness to come up with innovative ideas that are deeply grounded in the local market. Shanzhai may be a temporal phenomenon in the particular context of market shifts from “Made in China” to “Created in China”. The Shanzhai phenomenon, however, provides us with powerful insights on Chinese values and business approaches that are fundamental to innovating products and services for the local market. This presentation is intended to open up the conversation on how to innovate within emerging markets by observing Shanzhai designs.


Vinay Venkatraman
Frugal Digital Design, Copenhagen, DK

The Role of Big Data and Design
Ever increasingly we are surrounded by vast amounts of data and organizations, with governments looking for new ways to engage with big data sets. Designers have a new role to play in this space to catalyze and derive meaning. The opportunities in moving from data to information, and information to meaning, is an emergent design opportunity that can create a new strata for the creativity industry. Vinay's talk will showcase how design methods can play a significant role in shaping the relationship of big data in society. His talk will touch upon examples from healthcare, logistics and data visualization methods.


14.00-16.00 Session 2

Chair: Heng Zhi, University of Applied Arts Vienna


Babitha George
Quicksand Social Innovation, Bangalore

Design for the Real World: Some Lessons from Experiments in India
There couldn't be a more relevant time in our history to talk about the importance of design in society, and hence I have borrowed the title from Victor Papanek's landmark book. In emerging economies like India, rapid urbanization and the accompanying consumerism looms large. However, this development also comes with increasing struggle. Using lessons learned and challenges faced in our attempts to use design thinking to engage with sanitation and livelihoods in India, I will focus on a few questions: Can design be relevant in isolation? How can we both learn from and impact practice of other partners in our efforts to bring about socially relevant change? How can our frameworks of change adapt to the realities and constraints of the world around us?


Lucy Norris
Honorary Fellow
Department of Anthropology
University College London

Unravelling Waste Economies
Anthropological research in a textile-recycling town in north India encourages us to confront our latent assumptions about the values inscribed in our clothing and our ability to control its narration through acts of consumption and disposal. Practices of reuse, riddance and recycling link individual acts of valuation to the macroeconomics of global second-hand textile economies. These exchanges are often described as 'chains', 'cycles' and 'flows' of things and materials, in this case contingently framed as charity donations, environmentally-friendly practices, resource provision, aid and support for developing economies. Yet the used clothing economy is characterised as diverse, unpredictable and contradictory, where waste pools out of sight at the margins of global circulation, regulation is scarce and highly networked brokers extract maximum profits through constant sifting and sorting. With low pay and poor regulation, labour conditions in recycling mills reflect those at many of the factories in the global south in which these clothes were first made. Ever-cheaper clothing leads to increasing ephemerality and waste - if design can play a role in improving the material and social sustainability of textile production, how might this also impact upon the gross loss of value(s) represented by recycling industries? The talk will include a screening of Unravel, a documentary film about the textile-recycling industry in India directed by Meghna Gupta (2012).


Lorraine Justice
Dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Science
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), NY

Design in China: An Explosion of Creativity
No other country is experiencing growth in the field(s) of design like China. The number of design programs have grown in number and quality throughout Mainland China, in every first, second and third tier city. China seems to be bursting with new design, innovation and a mix of East-West creativity. The fast pace of change in China, however, will move to more of an Eastern mix as it reconnects with its creative heritage on a grand scale. The West will once again experience an influence from the East on art, design and innovations within a few years. What we will also see challenged is the western-centric view of creativity and innovation as we learn more about creating art and design in China.


Xu Ping
Director of the Research Centre of Design and Culture Policy
China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing

The Vast Land of Design:
China as an Emerging Economy and its New Design Power
The drastic changes of 20th century China, in terms of social-economic structure and industrialisation of production, has forever altered the way of life that was handed down for thousands of years. The introduction of modern design is therefore a painful, long-term and systematic project. China has gained understanding from the West during the process of learning, imitating and transforming this knowledge, which has been turned into the basis for the development of a new design culture. The 20th century was a phase of preparation and formation of a new design world; the 21st century is for China the beginning of real progress in design. Recently, China has started to point out new directions for future transitions in design; returning to the “vast land” of design and looking for sustainable solutions for the future while redefining the meanings of contemporary design, combining both global and local perspectives.



16.00-16.30 Panel Discussion & Concluding Remarks

Alison J. Clarke, Papanek Foundation, Vienna, AT
Lee Davis, Centre for Social Design, MICA, Baltimore, USA
Heng Zhi, University of Applied Arts Vienna, AT




Sulfikar Amir

Sulfikar Amir

Professor, Department of Sociology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Sulfikar Amir is an assistant professor of sociology at Nanyang Technological University. He holds a master's degree in industrial design from Arizona State University and completed a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His work is mostly focused on science, technology, and society (STS), sociology of risk and resilience, and design studies. He is the author of "The Technological State in Indonesia: the Co-constitution of High Technology and Authoritarian Politics."

Jonathan Barnbrook

Jonathan Barnbrook

Barnbrook, Creative & Graphic Design Studio, London

Jonathan Barnbrook is a graphic designer and social activist. His projects include the logo for occupy London and collaborations with Adbusters the long-running anti-advertising group and magazine. He additionally creates self-generated political based design and posters. He teaches worldwide and is one of the founding members of Occupy design UK. His contribution to design was recognised in with a major retrospective at the design museum in London.

Babitha George

Babitha George

Director of Quicksand, Social Innovation, Bangalore

Babitha George anchors Quicksand's Bangalore studio and leads multiple innovation projects with global corporations & foundations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, UNDP, Google, Cisco & IDEO, on subjects as varied as water and sanitation, technology convergence, internet, education and healthcare. Her prior work in education in India prompted her to actively think about the role of design thinking in social impact contexts, leading her to steer several of Quicksand's social innovation projects, especially in the use of technology in education and vocational training.

Lorraine Justice

Lorraine Justice

Dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), NY

Lorraine Justice is currently the Dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The College currently has 140 professors and 2,200 students in the disciplines of Art, Animation, Graphic Design, Digital Media, Film, Interior Design, Industrial/Product Design, Illustration, Photography, Print and more. She is a Fellow of the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) and was named one of the top 40 designers to watch by ID Magazine. She is the author of the new book by MIT Press, China’s Design Revolution, which was written for a Western audience to understand issues such as creativity and innovation in Mainland China.

Lucy Norris

Lucy Norris

Honorary Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK & Berlin

Lucy Norris is an anthropologist based at University College London. Her interests include the anthropology of waste and value, in particular practices of disposal, transformation and recycling. Grounded in studies of materiality and material culture, her work on the circulation of worn clothing links domestic practices of ridding and recycling to the creation of second-hand markets locally and internationally, with a focus on India and the UK. Current research includes the global circulation of cast-offs and the shoddy recycling industry in India.

Xu Ping

Xu Ping

Director of the Research Centre of Design Culture and Policy, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing

Prof. Xu Ping is an executive member of the China Industrial Design Association, Vice-Director of China National Arts and Crafts Society, Vice-Director of Industrial Design Council of the China Artists Association, and a member of the Academic Degrees Committee of the Chinese State Council for the subjects of design and arts. He holds a PhD from the Nanjing Institute of Fine Arts and was formerly Chair of the Faculty of Design at Nanjing Institute of Fine Arts, Director of Research Centre of Design Culture and Policy, and Vice-Director of the Faculty of Design at China Central Academy of Fine Arts.

Makiko Taniguchi

Makiko Taniguchi

Leading Anthropologist, Emerging Markets/Innovation, PARC Silicon Valley, California

An anthropologist on PARC's ethnography services team, Makiko Taniguchi focuses on understanding user/consumer needs and behaviors in socio-cultural and business contexts. She is passionate about innovative solutions that improve the lives of many people, and specializes in innovation and emerging markets — especially China. Prior to joining PARC, Makiko facilitated and consulted on several innovation strategy projects for large multinational corporations; worked for an innovation consultancy based in London; and worked at IDEO's Shanghai office where she developed her expertise on China.

Vinay Venkatraman

Vinay Venkatraman

Co-founder of CIID (Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design) & Frugal Digital Design, Copenhagen

Vinay Venkatraman is the co-founder of CIID (Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design). Vinay helps shape the strategy and content for CIID through consulting, teaching and research lead initiatives.  He is trained as product & interaction designer in India and Italy. His works in the past have spanned design of consumer products, software and film visual effects. He currently spends his time between creating new education curriculums, shaping policy initiatives for the Danish government and consulting large global companies on innovation around new product experiences and design strategy.