Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design (2018) offers a comprehensive overview of the work of the designer, author, and activist Victor J. 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.
This book documents countless photographs, artistic works and designs, objects, drawings, letters, and other materials, some of which are published here for the first time. Papanek’s close exchange with contemporaries such as Richard Buckminster Fuller, George Nelson, and Marshall McLuhan is also examined. Contemporary work by Tomás Saraceno, Catherine Sarah Young, Gabriel Ann Maher, Thomas Thwaites, and Forensic Architecture, as well as Flui Coletivo and Questtonó, among others, rounds off the publication and demonstrates 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.
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. 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.