© University of Applied Arts Vienna, Papanek Foundation

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 Papanek and his collaborators’ critical and cross-cultural approach to design culture the Foundation furthers an inclusive and socially-informed approach to contemporary design.

The Papanek Foundation initiates and organises exhibitions and symposia as well as the biennial Victor J. Papanek Lecture. The Foundation holds at its centre the archive and library of Papanek’s working life open to researchers and students of design by appointment.

In an era in which good design is arguably still the least present where it is most needed, the Foundation’s principle aim is to uphold the role of designers as crucial mediators of humanist ideals.

Victor J. Papanek


Victor J. Papanek (1923–1998), designer, teacher and author, born in Vienna, Austria in 1923, escaped to the United States in 1939 following the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi Germany. Educated at Cooper Union and briefly at MIT, Papanek purportedly apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1940s. Early in his career and he became a follower and ally of Buckminster Fuller who wrote the preface to the first English language edition of Papanek’s seminal publication Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971). The book’s groundbreaking ideas and uncompromising critique of contemporary design culture initially divided the design community. Ultimately, however, the polemic was a huge success; translated into twenty-three languages it remains one of the most widely read design books to date.

In the course of his career, Papanek applied the principles of socially responsible design in collaborative projects with concerns such as UNESCO and the World Health Organization. He considered design as a political tool in developing countries and peripheral communities in Europe and the US.

Along with the influential Design for the Real World  (1971), Papanek’s publications (co-authored with James Hennessey) include Nomadic Furniture I (1973), Nomadic Furniture II (1974); How Things Don’t Work (1977). He is sole author of Design For Human Scale (1983) and The Green Imperative (1995).



Univ. Professor Alison J. Clarke

BA (Hons) MA (RCA) PhD. (UCL)

Alison J. Clarke is founding director of the Papanek Foundation, having joined the University of Applied Arts Vienna from the Royal College of Art, London to become professor and chair of the design history and theory department. A historian and trained social anthropologist, she publishes widely in the area of design and material culture, her most recent book project Victor Papanek: Design for the Real World (MIT Press, forthcoming).

Michelle Jackson-Beckett 
BA MA MPhil 
Archival Administrator

Michelle Jackson-Beckett administrates the archive at the Papanek Foundation combining this with her role as senior lecturer within the department of Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna. She holds a Master’s degree from Parsons School of Design, New York, and is a PhD candidate at Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, New York. 

Advisory Board

Paola Antonelli
Senior Curator, Architecture and Design
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

John Thackara
Sustainable Futures Expert
Founder and Director, Doors of Perception, Francem of Modern Art, New York, USA

Babitha George
Quicksand Social Innovation, Bangalore

Jamer Hunt
Director, Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons the New School for Design

New York, USA