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Victor Papanek

Victor Papanek

"The only important thing about design is how it relates to people."

Victor Papanek was an internationally renown designer, professor and mentor; a pioneering advocate of a more human, ecologically, and ethically centred design.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Papanek studied design and architecture at the Cooper Union in New York, and undertook post-graduate studies in design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most of Papanek's work was in product design, but he also taught or chaired at universities in Canada, the US, Denmark, Sweden and the UK. From 1981, he was a Distinguished Professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Kansas. He was also senior design consultant to Volvo of Sweden, to the government of Papua New Guinea and to a medical lighting firm in Australia.

His seminal book, "Design for the Real World" was first published in 1971, and was immediately a challenge to the world of mainstream commercial design, putting it in line of ethical and political scrutiny. It is one of the world's most widely read books on design and has been translated into 23 languages.

"To create lipstick for honest whores is one thing, but to create deodorant for her pimp is another."

It advocated the adoption of a morally responsible and holistic approach to design, adapting technology to the individual's needs and utilising the wisdom and experience of other countries, particularly in the developing world. In order to better understand basic human needs and their relationship to design, he studied Oriental, Inuit and Native American cultures and was closely connected to folk arts.

Papanek was a design pioneer, and is an ICIS inspiration. He was one of the first industrial designers to critically analyse design as a force for good, suggesting that commercial design was not necessarily that. He, like ICIS, believed that designers and creative professionals have a responsibility and are able to affect real change in the world through good design.