Victor Papanek Going Forward©

Victor Papanek Going Forward© Action Research Study

Doris Wells-Papanek, M.Ed., IDSA, Tailored Learning Tools 
Walter Hargrove, M.I.D., IDSA, Art Institute of Portland


Throughout the 2009-2010 school year, Doris Wells-Papanek, M.Ed., and Walter Hargrove, M.I.D. collaborated on the Victor Papanek Going Forward © (VPGF) Action Research Pilot Study targeted at developing a DIY Human-Centered and Student-Directed Learning Pedagogy. Doris and Walter presented a research progress report at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) “Do It Yourself” (DIY) Education Symposium on August 4, 2010.

The purpose of the ongoing pilot study is to gain a better understanding of the relevance and influence of Victor Papanek’s past work on human-centered design today and to establish baseline data for a 2012 Human-Centered Design Curriculum National Endowment for the Arts grant application. 

Primary references of Victor Papanek’s research include an article written by Papanek in 1988 for MIT Press Journals, Design Issues entitled, “The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be,”[1] as well as an unpublished video recorded lecture Papanek delivered in 1992 at Apple Computer entitled, “Microbes in the Tower”[2]. A 2008 French Research and Design Review journal article in Azimutus entitled, “The Clock of Humanity Points Perpetually to One Minute Before Twelve,”[3] serves as a retrospective of Papanek’s vast contributions. Going forward into the present, additional references include highlights of perceptions, insights, and experiences from two human-centered design practitioner interviews[4] along with human-centered teaching and learning practices grounded in current applied research on brain-based teaching and student-directed learning using a flexible instructional approach based on student learning needs[5]

The report concludes with a description of a DIY human-centered and student-directed learning process designed for a progression of assignments in an experimental History of Industrial Design class. Initial evidence of the learning experimentation indicates an 81% increase in levels of student engagement[6]. The teaching and learning methodology has successfully been applied and tested in other classes and demonstrates the capacity to expand into a complete design curriculum pedagogy.

To access a .pdf copy of the report and further information on the full VPGF Action Research Pilot Study, please visit:

A review of the presentation has been posted on

An abbreviated version of the report was recently published on the Industrial Designer's Society of America's website:

To download the abbreviated report, please visit:

[1] Papanek, Victor. "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be." Design Issues 5.1 (1988): 4-17. Web. 9 Apr 2010.

[2] Unpublished video recording of Victor Papanek’s presentation: “Microbes in the Tower” delivered at Apple Computer Corporation, June 1992.

[3]  Rastello, M. (2008). Victor Papanek, the clock of humanity points perpetually to one minute before twelve. Azimuts, 30, 96-106.

[4]  In the fall of 2009, Doris Wells-Papanek conducted six research interviews with human-centered industrial design practitioners in New York City.

[5]  Millen, Greenleaf, Wells-Papanek, Orvis. (2007). Engaging today’s students: What all teachers need to know & be able to do. Greenleaf & Papanek Publications.

[6] In the spring of 2010, Walter Hargrove, M.I.D., Art Institute of Portland facilitated an experimental History of Industrial Design class focused on the topic Victor Papanek Going Forward. 

Doris Wells-Papanek,
Sep 25, 2010, 10:10 AM