Papanek Symposium 2023

16-17 March 2023 Online



Design Anthropology: Critical Speculations, a collaborative online event organised between the Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the anthropology department of The New School for Social Research, New York, considers the critical design politics of re-purposing design ‘for the real world’. Building on the momentum of former international cutting-edge collaborative Papanek Symposia by highlighting the global relevance of design as a practice and process of social change, the two-day event brings together a unique set of international speakers including Victor Buchli, Bodhi Chattopadhyay, Elizabeth Chin, Nicole Cristi, Michelle D. Commander, Elaine Gan, David Jeevendrampillai, Jonathan M. Square and  Brandi T. Summer.


Read More


Alison J. Clarke, MIT Press, 2021

Victor Papanek: Designer for the Real World

In Victor Papanek: Designer for the Real World, Alison J. Clarke explores the social design movement through the life of its leading pioneer, the Austrian American designer, theorist, and activist Victor Papanek. Papanek’s 1971 best seller, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change has been translated into twenty-two languages and never fallen out of print. Its politics of social design, anti-corporatism, and environmental sustainability have found renewed pertinence in the twenty-first century and dominate the agendas of design schools today. Drawing extensively on previously unexplored archival sources, Clarke uncovers and contextualizes the movement’s controversial origins and contradictions. 

Read More

Arte Documentary

Design ist niemals unschuldig!

Design is Never Innocent!

Design has become the driver of hyper-consumption. This Arte documentary explores what answers contemporary design practice offers to pressing social issues such as consumer waste, environmental degradation, and climate change. How can design help solve the world's problems, many of which it has helped to create? Featuring an interview with Alison J. Clarke in the exhibition, Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design. Directed by Reinhild Dettmer-Finke and produced by Kobalt.

Read More


Design pour un monde réel

Design for the Real World

A critical re-edition in French of Victor Papanek's fundamental work Design for the Real World (1971) co-edited by Alison J. Clarke, Director of the Victor Papanek Foundation, and Emanuele Quinz, Associate Professor at Paris 8 University and at École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (EnsAD). 

Read More

Contributing Publication

Design Struggles

Intersecting Histories, Pedagogies, and Perspectives

This essay collection critically assesses the ways in which the design field is involved in creating, perpetuating, promoting, and reinforcing injustice and inequality in social, political, economic, cultural, and ecological systems. This book shows how this entanglement arose from Eurocentric and neoliberal thinking. The voices and practices represented here propose to question and disrupt the discipline of design from within, by problematizing the very notions of design. They aim to do so by generating new, anti-racist, post-capitalist, queer-feminist, environmentally conscious and community-based ideas on how to transform design.

Read More

Past Exhibitions

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design


The Papanek Foundation presented the international travelling exhibition Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design, co-curated by Alison J. Clarke, 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. The expansive show presented 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. Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design featured work from cutting-edge practitioners including: Forensic Architecture, Faber Futures, Flui Colectivo, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Femke Herregraven, Hypen-Labs, Lucy and Jorge Orta, Tomás Saraceno, and Maya Jay Varadaraj, among others.

Read More

Exhibition Catalogue

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design


Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design offers a comprehensive overview of the work of the designer, author, and activist Victor Papanek. His main work, the instructive guide Design for the Real World published in 1971, is as much in focus as his designs and his commitment to social minorities, the so-called Third World, and the considerate use of natural resources.  Contemporary works by cutting-edge designers round off the publication and demonstrate that Papanek’s interpretation of design as a tool for social transformation is as relevant as ever and continues to shape debate on social design, critical design, and design thinking.  

Read More

In the News

World Design Organization

Design for the Sustainable World

Learn more about the travelling exhibition, Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design and the work of the Papanek Foundation in this profile by the World Design Organization.

Read More